In an unusual experiment, biologists from the University of San Francisco are tagging a hive of dying bees with the moniker of Zombie Bees in an effort to track their behavior. The decision to track the bees appears to revolve around a concern that biologists have regarding abandoned bee hives, which could indicate a problem that has the potential to dramatically affect bee pollination and, therefore, the human food supply.
The tracking devices, which are about the size of a “fleck of glitter,” are being attached to the bees’ thoraxes in an effort to determine the cause of a confirmed, drastic decline in the bee population. It is hoped that, by observing the bees’ behavior, scientists will be able to formulate a plan to inoculate or prevent exposure of the bees to a common fly parasite known as Apocephalus borealis. It is believed that both the United States and Europe’s bee populations are being infected with this parasite, which is the cause of the destructive behavior we are seeing within our otherwise healthy bee population.
At this point in the study, researchers have begun an experiment that involves tagging the bees and then monitoring the entrance to a hive, which is currently located on the University’s grounds. A laser reader is then used to observe the bees’ behavior within and around the hive. To assist in tracking the spread of the parasite outside of the University grounds, researchers are asking for help from the general public, which is asked to report any dead bees that may be found or bees that seem to be disoriented. To know what behavior to look for, the public can access photos of suspected infected bees.
Over all, this study is being conducted in order to determine why affected bees abandon the hive and why the disoriented bees die at night. It is thought that there is a connection between the bees and infected flies, but it is unknown where the interaction between the two different insects is occurring. If this factor can be determined, biologists are hoping to find a weak link in the chain that occurs when the bees and flies come in contact with one another; if they can find this link, there is a hope of exploiting it to find a way to protect the bee population. Biologists are also attempting to learn whether healthy bees are expelling the sick bees from the hive or if the virus affects their radar so that they can no longer detect where the hive is located.
Additional research is needed, but there is also a question to be answered about bees in general: Have we, as humans, mistakenly considered bees to be somewhat docile in nature when in fact healthy bees have the potential to act violently as may be proven in their behavior towards these infected bees?
It’s hoped that researchers will find a way to help these Zombie Bees and thus restore the studied ecosystem to its previous number of pollinating bees.
Check out the video link below for more information and see for yourself. Are these bees for real?
Comments, as always, are welcome.
Video and Picture Source: boingboing.net