View Full Version : A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly Apoceph

Big Bear
Jan 3rd 2012, 06:13 PM
Honey bee colonies are subject to numerous pathogens and parasites. Interaction among multiple pathogens and parasites is the proposed cause for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a syndrome characterized by worker bees abandoning their hive. Here we provide the first documentation that the phorid fly Apocephalus borealis, previously known to parasitize bumble bees, also infects and eventually kills honey bees and may pose an emerging threat to North American apiculture. Parasitized honey bees show hive abandonment behavior, leaving their hives at night and dying shortly thereafter. On average, seven days later up to 13 phorid larvae emerge from each dead bee and pupate away from the bee. Using DNA barcoding, we confirmed that phorids that emerged from honey bees and bumble bees were the same species. Microarray analyses of honey bees from infected hives revealed that these bees are often infected with deformed wing virus and Nosema ceranae. Larvae and adult phorids also tested positive for these pathogens, implicating the fly as a potential vector or reservoir of these honey bee pathogens. Phorid parasitism may affect hive viability since 77% of sites sampled in the San Francisco Bay Area were infected by the fly and microarray analyses detected phorids in commercial hives in South Dakota and California's Central Valley. Understanding details of phorid infection may shed light on similar hive abandonment behaviors seen in CCD.

http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchArticle.action?utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+plosone/EvolutionaryBiology+%28PLoS+ONE+Alerts:+Evolutiona ry+Biology%29&utm_source=feedburner&articleURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0029639

Jan 3rd 2012, 07:00 PM
Hey Bear:

You beat me to it. Here's another arcticle on the same thing.
(Don't pay attention to the mindless comments after the article, not everyone living up here in the "Tundra" is a rocket scientist)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/offbeat/story/20 ... -bees.html (http://www.cbc.ca/news/offbeat/story/2012/01/03/sci-honey-bees.html)

Jan 4th 2012, 05:38 AM
dang you guys are fast and even the 'frozen tundra' folks are beating me to the draw. must be my advanced age???

here is another link..

Jan 9th 2012, 11:39 AM
Home Nation
Parasitic fly could explain bee die-off
Updated: January 7, 2012 - 4:07 PM
show In this photo provided by San Francisco State University, an Apocephalus borealis fly implants its eggs into the abdomen of a honey bee. The A. borealis fly is suspected of contributing to the decrease in the honey bee population. Researchers say the fly deposits its eggs in the abdomen of honey bees and as the larvae grow within the body of the bee, the bee begins to lose control of its ability to think and walk, flying blindly toward light. It eventually dies and the fly larvae emerge.
Photo: Christopher Quock, Associated Press

more articles

Northern California scientists say they have found a possible explanation for a honey bee die-off that has decimated hives around the world: A parasitic fly that hijacks the bees' bodies and causes them to abandon hives.

Scientists say the fly deposits its eggs into the bee's abdomen, causing the infected bee to exhibit zombie-like behavior by walking around in circles. The bee leaves the hive at night and dies. The symptoms mirror colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly disappear.

The disease is of great concern, because bees pollinate about a third of the U.S. food supply. Its presence is especially alarming in California, the nation's top producer of fruits and vegetables, where bees play an essential role in the $2 billion almond industry and other crops.

The latest study, published in the science journal PLoS ONE, points to the parasitic fly as the new threat to honey bees. It's another step in ongoing research to find the cause of the disease.

Researchers haven't been able to pin down an exact cause of colony collapse or find a way to prevent it. Research so far points to a combination of factors including pesticide contamination, a lack of blooms -- and hence nutrition -- and mites, fungi, viruses and parasites. Interaction among the parasite and multiple pathogens could be one possible factor in colony collapse, according to the latest study by researchers at San Francisco State University. It says the phorid fly, or apocephalus borealis, was found in bees from three-quarters of the 31 hives surveyed in the San Francisco Bay area.

The combination of a parasite, pathogens and other stressors could cause die-off, lead investigator John Hafernik said. The parasitic fly serves as a reservoir that harbors pathogens -- honey bees from parasite-infected hives tested positive for deformed wing virus and other pathogens, the study found.

"We don't fully understand the web of interactions," Hafernik said. "The parasite could be another stressor, enough to push the bee over tipping point. Or it could play a primary role in causing the disease."

Jan 9th 2012, 08:30 PM
Just received an update from our Provincial Bee Health Advisor. She forwarded an email that has two of the authors of this report (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) apparently saying that it has been taken out of context by the media.

Jan 9th 2012, 08:49 PM
So exactly where did this fly come from? There are honey bees all over the world and you would think that this would have been noticed before now. I mean, the fly didn't just spontaneously emerge from thin air and has obviously been living for ages just as the bees have. If it has been a cause for CCD, then wouldn't the bee die off have been an ongoing occurrence throughout history?

What I found unusual is that 3/4 of the hives in the Bay area were noted to have this fly in them, but are those hives dieing off? The article did not elaborate. I am sure the pesticide companies will be jumping on this one quickly to help take the focus off of their products as the cause.

Jan 10th 2012, 05:25 AM
I think one small/large detail is the folks that collected these sample did so underneath a light poll at night. So at this point we do not know if these flies occur inside an active bee hive at all. Almost all external light will lure bee outside during the night time hours.

given the above.... any hypothetical link between the flies and CCD (which most folks in the know now consider to be a multi variable problem) is extremely premature.

Jan 10th 2012, 06:11 AM
Message from Joe Derisi on Media craziness: phorids and bees

It looks like the media has really run with the whole zombie-bee
phorid thing. Charles and I are authors on that paper, but I want you to
know that we do not agree with the statements being made in the press
and by others, claiming that phorids are even remotely responsible for
colony collapse.

You may hear from your stakeholders that are listening to the popular
press today. The media is way over-hyping this story.

Joseph DeRisi
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
UC San Francisco

Jan 10th 2012, 06:41 AM
The fly being mentioned is not native to here. It was brought in to fight off another pest.

But "cross-species" adaptation is always a possibility. If you think about how many new insects are brought into this country, the possibilities are endless.

Most insects have specific parasites and fungi who have specialized on one host. Check out this video. Nature never intended to have disease and parasites transported all over the world. Stink bugs, Emerald ash borer, are a few recent new pests in this country. I think "Brazilian" (or some other like named) ants are new too.


We import new possible detrimental disease scenarios all the time.

Jan 12th 2012, 09:31 AM
actually brazilian fire ants have been around for awhile, the carribean crazy ant, apparently doesn't like fire ants, nor much else but we have them as well.

Jan 12th 2012, 10:17 AM
Is there a pitcher of this fly? or is it to small to see. :confused: Jack

Jan 12th 2012, 01:35 PM
Hey Jack:

Check out tecumseh's link in post # 3 for a picture.

Jan 12th 2012, 02:04 PM
Thanks Perry, they would be hard to see. Hope i never see one. :mrgreen: Jack

Jan 13th 2012, 06:53 AM
http://news.yahoo.com/hairy-crazy-ants- ... 23360.html (http://news.yahoo.com/hairy-crazy-ants-invade-texas-miss-150823360.html)
Caribbean crazy ants invade Mississippi from Texas

larry tate
Feb 17th 2012, 07:07 AM
Has anyone seen any of these flies in their hives? I saw something outside the hive that resembled a small fly. It was around 4 or 5 dead bees on the entrance after a day of rain.

Feb 17th 2012, 06:08 PM
it is quite common (likely not the best of wording) to see flies on hives with dead bees or brood around. too many flies around a hive can often mean the hive has problem.

Mar 6th 2012, 09:23 AM
Dbure asks: "...the fly didn't just spontaneously emerge from thin air and has obviously been living for ages just as the bees have. If it has been a cause for CCD, then wouldn't the bee die off have been an ongoing occurrence throughout history?"

Think back to Varroa. It too had been around for a long time without affecting the honey bees--until it "decided" to use Apis m. as a new host. We people helped it spread from the original crossover-to-honeybees site all over the world. That might have been the story with this fly too.

Mar 7th 2012, 06:13 PM
From American Bee Journal, Volume 1 No. 4 April 1861, page 85

"Notes on Humble Bees" by Dr. Donhoff

I daily examined my humble bees' nests, looking for dead humble bees. I found some on ten occasions, and on dissecting them invariably discovered a large larvae, completely filling the abdomen. It was apodal, and when warmed moved like the larva of the bee moth. I succeeded in severing the abdomen without injuring the larvae. In a few days these were transformed into chestnut-brown pupae, which have not yet emerged. They appear to be the pupae of some species of fly. The parent insect must deposit the egg by inserting its ovipositor between the rings of the abdomen, and the humble bee perishes about the time when the larvae attains full growth, and is ready to enter its pupae state.

My personal theory is that the only way the humble bee survived was to change its name to bumble bee and confuse the fly!

Mar 8th 2012, 12:39 AM
You might be on to something. I suggest that the forum sponsors a competition in search of an apropriate new name to replace "Honey bee".
In wishful thinking, I humbly submit my suggestion: "Money bee".:rolling:

Mar 8th 2012, 06:55 AM
Contest over--you win. A one letter change that will confuse the fly and accurately describes our bees in terms of what we put into them rather than what they produce.