You, being a sane and rational person, rarely take talk of impending apocalypses very seriously. You are of a mind that rational people will work things out. And, in the main, history has proven you right. Granted, sometimes, it has taken rational people and a well trained army, but still, in the end everything worked out. So when I write about our eventual enslavement by our robot overlords and the like, you smile and then go have another latte. Sometimes you even send me a funny email. That’s very nice of you by the way. And when I mention that scientists, far too long at play in the fields of the Lord, have decided to build the world a singing mouse, you don’t panic, but you do make sure you have some of those lethal mouse traps. Simply put, you are a person of infinite jest, Horatio, and it takes a bit to get you riled up.
Fact: If all the bees disappeared humanity would die within four years. That’s how long it would take for all the food to disappear from lack of pollenization and for us to starve.
Fact: Bees are disappearing at an alarming rate due to pollution infesting their pollen.
Fact: Zombie bees have been discovered in Washington state.
Feel free to run screaming from the room and then start stocking up on perishables. It may buy you an extra month or so after the world dies.
Washington state’s first “zombie bees” have been reported in Kent.
Novice beekeeper Mark Hohn returned home from vacation a few weeks ago to find many of his bees either dead or flying in jerky patterns and then flopping on the floor. He later learned they had a parasite that causes bees to fly at night and lurch around erratically until they die.
The infection is called “zombie bees.”
“I joke with my kids that the zombie apocalypse is starting at my house,” Hohn told The Seattle Times.
San Francisco State University biologist John Hafernik discovered the infection in California in 2008.
Hafernik now uses a website to recruit citizen scientists like Hohn to track the infection across the country. Observers have found zombie bees in California, Oregon, South Dakota and, now, Washington.
Zombie bees also are being studied by Steve Sheppard, chairman of the entomology department at Washington State University.
The infection is another threat to bees that are needed to pollinate crops. Hives have been failing in recent years due to a mysterious ailment called colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly die.
Hohn had remembered hearing about zombie bees, so when he discovered the dead bees at his 1.25-acre spread, he collected several of the corpses and popped them into a plastic bag. About a week later, Hohn had evidence his bees were infected — the pupae of parasitic flies.
The life cycle of the fly that infects zombie bees is reminiscent of the movie “Alien,” the Times reported. A small adult female lands on the back of a honeybee and injects eggs into the bee’s abdomen. The eggs hatch into maggots.
“They basically eat the insides out of the bee,” Hafernik said.
After consuming their host, the maggots pupate, forming a hard outer shell that looks like a fat, brown grain of rice. That’s what Hohn found in the plastic bag with the dead bees. Adult flies emerge in three to four weeks.
There’s no evidence yet that the parasitic fly is a major player in the bees’ decline, but it does seem the pest is targeting new hosts, Sheppard said. “It may occur a lot more widely than we think.”
That’s what Hafernik hopes to find out with his website, zombeewatch.org. The site offers simple instructions for collecting suspect bees, watching for signs of parasites and reporting the results.
Once more people start looking here, the number of sightings will probably climb, Hohn said.
“I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one in Washington state who has them,” he said.
When you go to Zom Bee Watch you will see a map. It is a very nice map, very well laid out. It has nice colors and easy to understand symbols and clear definitions of what the symbols mean. Just in case you have vision problems they were kind enough to include a link to a full screen version of it as well.
You will quickly learn that Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, South Dakota, Indiana, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York either are infested or have shown enough wanring signs to warrant sampling.
That’s a little over a fifth of our country by area.
And it’s just the beginning.
Insecticides, water pollution, air pollution and genetically altered crops that poison the insects or, at the least, prevent them from pollinating the next plant, are all partially to blame for the decline of bees.
The Zombees are just a bonus to hurry us along so that we can shake off this mortal coil once and for all.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.