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Poll: Could Honeybees In San Leandro Become Zombies?

A San Francisco State University biologist finds that parasites radically alter the behavior of bees. San Leandro bans backyard bee-keeping. Should these findings affect city policy?

Like a scene from the movie, "Alien," a fly that incubates its eggs in the bodies of honeybees may be responsible for the decline of hives throughout Northern California, according to research published by San Francisco State University Professor John Hafernick.

Hafernick's research found that when the parasites mature, infected bees are drawn toward lights, where they may perish or be distracted from their mission of gathering nectar and pollinating plants.

Popular press reports have dubbed this the "Zombie" effect and implied that it could be a leading cause in the reduction of the state's honeybee population.

But learned news outlets, like Science Now, have taken a more circumspect view saying "parasites conceivably might play a role in colony collapse disorder (CCD)."

While the scientists hash this out, here's the question for San Leandro.

Our city is one of the rare Bay Area municipalities that bans backyard bees (and chickens), much to the chagrin of , who is among those trying to change .

In light of this research, would legalizing bee-keeping leave San Leandro prone to "Zombie" attacks, or bolster the number of healthy hives?

Sound off in comments and vote in our poll. Or at least crack a smile.

(Follow us on Twitter @sanleandropatch or like us at Facebook.com/sanleandropatch)

Leah Hall January 04, 2012 at 08:48 PM
ROFLMAO - Who wrote the questions for the pole? The first one is hilarious. As biologist and writer E.O. Wilson has said (paraphrased) "humankind needs insects and microorganisms in the soil more than they need us for a shot at long term survival on our planet"
Scott Terry January 04, 2012 at 09:12 PM
As a beekeeper, I can say that the discovery of this new parasite is more of the same. The reality is that there are so many threats to the honeybee population that without human intervention (ie, beekeeping), honeybees won't survive on their own. Between this new threat, the varroa mite, and all the other illnesses that affect honeybees, the simple little bee needs our help. There is no such thing as a "wild" hive. Honeybees need human care and nurture to survive, hence the need to repeal the ban in San Leandro.
Tom Abate (Editor) January 04, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I can't get over the sci-fi aspects of this parasite. Truth is stranger than fiction
Leah Hall January 04, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Scott, Can you shed some light on this question (related to my E.O Wilson quote). Can humans survive without these bees? Or a little less dramatically, what would be the expected impacts caused by their virtual extinction?
Mike Katz-Lacabe January 04, 2012 at 11:59 PM
I agree with Scott that this is another example of why beekeeping should be permitted in San Leandro. Greater numbers and diversity make it more likely that bees will survive. Of course, there are plenty of other examples of organisms that reproduce by taking over another organism. There is a fungus that infects ants that causes them to leave the colony and then bite down on the underside of a leaf. The fungus then protrudes from the ant's head to distribute its spores to infect other ants. The parasite Toxoplasma gondii causes rats to become sexually attracted to cats, which is useful, because it only reproduces on cats. Then there is a virus that causes gypsy moth caterpillars to climb to the top of a tree, where the virus causes the caterpillar to die and then release virus particles to infect other caterpillars. Evolution is a beautiful and amazing thing.
Leah Hall January 05, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Gross! I just wish more people had a meaningful connection to nature. Sensitive gardening and taking care of domesticated creatures like honeybees or chickens is a great start.
Rene A. Mendieta January 07, 2012 at 12:07 AM
It's my understanding that without bees, mankind would cease to exist. Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying that without bees (pollinating the world's flora), mankind would be extinct in four years. Hence, to the question posed by Tom Abate: no bees… no life. In regards to colony collapse disorder (CCD), scientists are still puzzled as to what is causing the disorder: it could be mites, pesticides or global warming, or a combined effect of these variables. I was reading an article on the subject of CCD where a reader posted that cellular phones may be causing the problem. If EMF (electro-magnetic field) exposure is potentially/probably harmful to humans, why should we be surprised that they would also be harmful or deadly to the delicate little bee, which requires an anatomical design that allows it to use it's own version of a GPS system to navigate to and from its hive. Billions of cell phones and smart phones are being used all over the world; PGE has installed millions of “smart” meters that emit EMFs.. I often hesitate to look up something on my i-phone for fear that I may be contributing to the bee's demise and that of my own! We could be causing similar harm to other insects but that harm could go unnoticed; but the honeybee is a social creature as they group in a hive and since we cultivate them they for their honey, we are acutely aware of their plight. We don’t need a San Leandro solution to Colony Collapse Disorder; we need a global solution.

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