Just when you thought it was safe to reach for some honey... Scientists have reported honeybees engaging in some horrific behavior.
After a parasite fly lays its eggs in the abdomen of a honeybee, the insect begins to lose interest in its own hive, according to biology professor John Hafernik of San Francisco State University.
Soon after, the parasitized bees are flying in strange patterns and circling outdoor lights. Before long, the affected bees drop dead. About seven days later, tiny brown pill-shaped pupae emerge from the bee carcass. (See video of the strange bee-havior, attached).
The phenomenon has been spotted dozens of times in the San Francisco Bay area, according to a website designed to track the so-called zombees.
The zombees have been spotted as far south as Santa Barbara, and even as far away as South Dakota. Although the site shows no Orange County zombee attacks—yet—scientists want to enlist the public's help tracking the strange insect activity.
"We’re sort of a mom and pop operation at this point," Hafernik said, "but if we can enlist a dedicated group of citizen scientists to help us, together, we can answer important questions and help honeybees at the same time."
August is the "high season for parasitized bees," said SFSU publicist Jonathan Morales.
"Any data from Mission Viejo and Orange County—whether it's confirmation of 'zombee bees' or reports that bees in your area are, in fact, not infected—will help [scientists] understand how far the parasite has spread," he said.
According to zombeewatch.org, the behavior is consistent with Colony Collapse Disorder. But right now, it's unclear what role zombees might play in the disappearance of North American honeybee colonies.