The Zombie Apocalypse is here.
Well, kind of.
Earlier this year, , which infects honeybees, turning the bees “zombie-like.” These infected bees were found across the San Francisco Bay Area, including Orinda.
Now, San Francisco State Professor John Hafernik and his colleagues are asking the public to help search for these “zombified” bees. On July 24, the group launched ZomBeeWatch.org, a website to help people keep track of where they see these zombees. The website includes a tutorial for how to identify these zombees, and what to do if someone finds one.
According to Hafernik, the bees are infected by female flies who parasitize the bees by laying eggs into the bees’ abdomens. The eggs then hatch into maggots, which lead to changes in the bees’ behavior. The bees will leave their hive at night, which is abnormal for honeybees, and are then attracted to surrounding lights. People often find these “zombees” dead or acting strangely, such as walking around in circles, near the lights the bees are attracted to.
Lamorindans can help the zombee search party, and the website encourages “citizen scientists” to track where they see the zombie honeybees. People are encouraged to collect the zombees that they find and post pictures of the bees to the website, along with their location.
Hafernik also hopes that people in other parts of the country will take part in the project, as records of these bees are mostly concentrated in California. The infected bees have been found in areas as far north as Canada, as far east as Maine and as far south as New Mexico, according to Hafernik.
“This is an opportunity for citizens to get involved in something that could be important," he said. "If they find something, it could be an important finding that can help with the health honeybees. It also is an opportunity to learn more about honeybees and how science operates, and to become a part of a group of people who are interested in these kinds of things.”
Once the parasitizing flies are recorded, the group hopes to continue the idea of “citizen scientists” and get people involved in other kinds of sampling of flies and bees, including monitoring the general nighttime activity of bees.
To help search for the zombees, visit ZomBeeWatch.org.