Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Honey bees are a vital pollinator of agricultural crops and it’s not yet known how severely the zombie-fly infestation will affect populations.

Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

A beekeeper in Nanaimo, B.C., is the first to document what could be a devastating parasite in Canadian honey bees.

Sarah Wallbank says she noticed bees from her hive were flying erratically at night, persistently circling lights and then dying.

An online check led her to ZomBee Watch and its director, biology professor John Hafernik at San Francisco State University, who tracks the Zombie fly and its parasitic attack on honey bees across North America.

Story continues below advertisement

Hafernik says Wallbank's bees are the first in Canada to be confirmed as infected, although hives are being checked in Victoria and Kelowna.

He says the infection is concerning but not surprising, because the Zombie fly is native to North America and has targeted other native wasps and bumblebees. It appears only recently to have turned its attention to honey bees introduced by Europeans, however.

Honey bees are a vital pollinator of agricultural crops and it's not yet known how severely the infestation will affect populations, so Hafernik is appealing for what he calls citizen scientists to watch for insects acting strangely.

"By acting strangely, I mean flying around at night when they should be huddled, staying warm in their hives, and often getting attracted to light, which is sort of our indicator that something unusual is going on in the hive," says Hafernik.

Bees are likely infected while foraging, and become increasingly disoriented as the eggs hatch in their abdomens.

"After about five to seven days, the larvae have completed feeding on the inside of the bee, they literally eat the inside out of the bee and they then kind of erupt out of the area between the head and neck of the bee, sort of like aliens," he says.

A map of infected bee colonies shows heavy infestations on both United States coasts and Hafernik says the big question is whether the bug has spread through British Columbia to Alberta and possibly Ontario.

Story continues below advertisement

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, he says.

"We are interested in whatever people find. Even if they find a honey bee that is showing this unusual behaviour and no parasites come out of it, we'd like to know that as well."

Hafernik says it has been "really great" making contact with citizen scientists such as Wallbank in Nanaimo, and her counterparts in Canada and the U.S.

"These are people who can make real scientific contributions and discoveries that have been missed by scientists like me and others over the years," he adds.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies