Zombie bees a.k.a. 'zombee bees' fly at night and behave strangely after parasite infects them

It doesn't sound real.

One could even argue it sounds like the plot of a pretty awful horror movie.

But it's isn't.

Zombie bees are a concern across the country.

Call them the flying dead, if you will.

But Anthony Cantrell's zombie bees  are no joke for Sherri Englert and others in the Vermont beekeeping industry.

"Unfortunately it is funny to people, but it isn't funny. It's another problem," says Englert.

Cantrell, a beekeeper, says he noticed about 30 of his bees acting strangely last fall.

He sent them away for testing after discovering a program called zombee watch.

The results were positive - the first batch of zombee bees had been discovered in New England.

State entomologist Alan Graham says he couldn't believe it, "I hadn't even heard of the term zombie bees."

Graham says zombie bees are created by this parasitic fly that lays eggs in the honeybee's stomach.

"The eggs would hatch and the parasites would grow in the abdomen and it triggers a behavior in the honeybee which is very unusual. That makes the honeybee decide that it wants to fly at night," Graham said.

The infected bees also move erratically.

Graham hopes to start zombie bee surveillance this summer alongside his mosquito technicians.

"I don't know if it's a serious problem in Vermont, I doubt it at this point," Graham said.

Even so, with Cantrell's probable sighting, Englert is taking the zombie bees buzz seriously.

"It's a problem and we're going to have to face it and we need to figure it out and not laugh it off," Englert says.

The parasite is a threat to honey bees in many parts of the United States.

You can find out more at zombeewatch.org .
 


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