Friday, January 6, 2012

bee-ing a foster parent with zombies

Prof. Robin Owen
While reading about the zombie-making fly Apocephalus borealis (see my previous post) I found that some of the basic research on the fly and its native hosts, the bumblebees, was done by Prof. Robin Owen at Mount Royal College in Alberta. Robin and his students found that in southern Alberta, the fly parasitized a fairly large proportion of bumblebees of several species. Up to 20% of workers and a higher percentage of males had fly larvae. This work tells us that the fly is present in Canada and reasonably abundant.

Previous work showed that the fly was present in BC, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. It's probably in the other provinces too but no one has looked for it. All of this tells us that Canada may not be immune to the problems this fly presents for honeybees, and the problems it may present for native bumblebees.

However, I don't like always being the bearer of bad news, so here is a wonderful CBC radio interview with Robin Owen about the "Bumblebee Rescue and Foster Parent Program" of the Calgary-based Community Pollinator Foundation. If you're in Alberta and you want to be a bumblebee foster parent, this is for you!
"Die Hummel", 1893, Sebastian Lucius


  1. I am happy to have found your blog after reading some of your articles. I was a non-gardener until 5 years ago when we moved. I am trying to take my western NY yard with a pond and woods and make it as wildlife friendly as possible. We are removing non-native plants and replacing them with natives as we can. Learning about this has been an adventure. I try on my blog to get the word out about pollinators and gardening for them...Michelle