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Mysterious 'zombie bee' scourge reaches southern US

The mysterious "zombie bee" parasite that kills honeybees has reached the southern United States after scientists confirmed a case in Virginia about an hour outside Roanoke, researchers announced this week.

The discovery suggests the phenomenon is more widespread than previously thought, although researchers still know little about how many bees it actually kills.

Flies attach themselves to the bees and inject their eggs, causing erratic "zombie-like" behavior in the bees such as flying at night and toward light. The bees often die within hours. Fly larvae burst out of their carcasses days later.

The phenomenon was first discovered in California in 2008 and has spread to states including Oregon, South Dakota and New York. But even as "zombie bees" reach the South, scientists still don't know what role they might play in the pollinator's alarming decline.

"We're trying to answer some of these questions about how important this is," said John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University who studies "zombie bees." ''We don't know whether it's a major player in honeybee decline or a minor actor in a B-movie."

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_ZOMBIE_BEES?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2016-06-23-13-46-54

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