Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Real life zombies!

Well, technically, zombie bees

All Professors really are absent minded.  Being the son of a Professor, I am convinced that this axiom is absolutely true.  Thankfully, it is certainly true in the case of John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University.  It seems that Professor Hafernik had a nice batch of hungry praying mantises back at his lab.  So when he saw a bunch of dead bees around the base of a light stanchion, he picked them up and put them in a vial with the intention of feeding them to his mantises at a later time.  Except that, owing to the fact he is an absent minded professor, he forgot about them.  When he noticed them again, fly pupae were crawling all over the bee carcasses.  He genetically tested the flies and found them to be the same specie that had previously been found to "zombieize" bumble bees and paper wasps.  The flies laid their eggs, the pupae hatched and turned the host insects into zombies that flew aimlessly until dying away from the hive where the little darlings could slither out from around the neck and grow up to be mama and papa zombie makers in the future.  What he found to be amazing was that no one had ever noticed the zombie flies in honey bee colonies before.  Since honey bees are among the most observed and studied insects, he theorized that it was a new parasitic relationship in nature.  A number of random inspections showed localized infections in  a number of places throughout the country.  Professor Hafernik may have found one of the root causes of colony collapse disorder which is decimating the honey bee population and thereby threatening agricultural productivity.  All because he was absent minded . . .

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