Mutant "zombie bees" have made their way across the country to the Northeast after first appearing on the West Coast. The discovery made last summer in Vermont was the first spotting of zombie bees east of South Dakota, according to biology professor John Hafernik of San Francisco State University.
Not actually undead creatures like the ghoulish fare of horror films, the zombie bees are so named due to their erratic behavior once infected with a parasitic fly's eggs, a bee expert told ABC News on Wednesday, Jan. 29. However, that's not to say the reason for the erratic behavior and the bees' eventual death by parasite isn't a horror story in itself.
The infection begins when a fly called the Apocephalus borealis latches onto a bee and lays eggs inside which eventually hatch, wreaking havoc on their hosts, Hafernik explained.
"They fly around in a disoriented way, get attracted to light, and then fall down and wander around in a way that's sort of reminiscent of zombies in the movies," Hafernik said. "Sometimes we've taken to calling [it], when they leave their hives, 'the flight of the living dead.'"
He calls it a sort of a combination of zombies and aliens mixed together. Once infected, the bees start exhibiting zombie-like behavior. Then when the eggs hatch, the bees typically drop dead within minutes.
The culprit fly was originally discovered in Maine in the 1920s. Since then it has been found across the United States, where it had been known to "parasitize" bumblebees and yellow jacket hornets, but not honeybees, Hafernik said.
Even though it's unclear exactly how many bee colonies throughout the continent have been infested, there hasn't been any sign of a widespread infestation.
"...there's not necessarily any threat of a zombie (bee) invasion anytime soon," Hafernik said.