"Zombie" Bees Electronically Enhanced to Help Solve Die-Off Mystery
To learn more about a bizarre, zombie-like behavior in honeybees, researchers are tagging the "zombees" with radio trackers.
When infected by parasitic maggots of the scuttle fly, the bees apparently desert their hives at night and cluster near outdoor lights, wandering in increasingly erratic circles on the ground before dying.
The parasite could be controlling the honeybees and making them abandon their hives—or perhaps the infected bees are "committing altruistic suicide" to protect their hive mates, said entomologist John Hafernik of San Francisco State University.
(Related: "Tiny Radio Tags Offer Glimpse Into Bees' Universe.")
Hafernik accidentally discovered the zombie bees last year while searching for dead bugs to feed lab insects. After collecting a handful of bees under a campus streetlight, he noticed maggots emerging from the corpses.
Now Hafernik and colleagues are gluing tiny radiofrequency identification tags—each no bigger