A beekeeper in Langford on Vancouver Island was surprised to see almost 40 bees show up dead on his porch one morning.
What has now been confirmed as a case of ‘Zombie Bees’, Tyler Baldwin was worried about what was happening to his collection of bees when they started to behave strangely.
“About a week ago, my wife noticed that there was some honey bees flying around our patio light just in front of the house, and that’s very odd,” Baldwin told Global News.
The next day, all the bees were dead.
The erratic behaviour and attraction to light is a symptom of a what scientists call the zombie fly parasite: a fly which targets native wasps and bees. The first Canadian case of the parasite was recently found in Nanaimo.
READ MORE: Zombie fly parasite spreads to B.C. bees
Bees are likely infected while foraging and become increasingly disoriented as the eggs hatch in their abdomens. The larvae then feed on the inside of the bee’s abdomen and eat the bee from the inside out. They then erupt out of the bee between their head and neck.
Baldwin suspected his bees were infected, and his hypothesis was confirmed Thursday by the citizen science project ZomBee Watch.
While the diagnosis is somewhat new for the region, there have already been 18 suspected cases reported in the last week.
There isn’t much beekeepers can do to keep the parasite away except insure their hives are kept as healthy as possible.
“They should be doing the best they can to keep their beehives healthy, use the best practices, and make sure the beehives are well nourished and that they are controlling for parasitic mites,” said John Hafernik at San Francisco State University, who tracks the Zombie fly and its parasitic attack on honey bees across North America.
Anyone seeing bees attracted to light, especially at night, should carefully collect the dying insect and save it in a container or baggie, observe if any larvae emerge, and report to ZomBee Watch.
–with files from The Canadian Press and Kylie Stanton