Mark Hohn didn't pay much attention to the dead bees scattered outside his shop when he got home from vacation a few weeks ago. He just pulled out a leaf blower and blasted away the mess. It took him a few days to realize he had an invasion of the living dead on his hands. "I joke with my kids that the zombie apocalypse is starting at my house," said the novice beekeeper. The dead and dying honeybees from Hohn's 1.25-acre spread in Kent are the first in Washington confirmed to be infected by a parasitic fly that causes the bees to lurch around erratically before dropping dead. The discovery expands the range of the so-called "zombie bees" first discovered in California in 2008 by San Francisco State University biologist John Hafernik. Unlike healthy bees, which spend the night tucked up in their hive, infected bees fly after dark and tend to congregate at lights. Hohn noticed bees buzzing around the light in his shop, flying in jerky patterns and finally flopping on the floor. He remembered hearing about the zombie bees, so he collected several of the corpses and popped them into a Ziploc bag. "Curiosity got the better of me," he said. The fly's life cycle is gruesomely reminiscent of the movie "Alien" — though they don't pose a risk to people. Adult females, smaller than a fruit fly, land on the backs of foraging honeybees and use their needle-sharp ovipositors to inject eggs into the bee's abdomen. The eggs hatch into maggots. "They basically eat the insides out of the bee," Hafernik said.My first impulse was to do an animation ridiculing the San Francisco bees, showing them staggering around with fat joints in their mouths. After rereading the above, I just couldn't do it. I've gotten fairly 'close to the soil' in the last year or so, and learned enough about bees and pollination to gain considerable empathy for the industrious critters. I like to watch them working on my all-clover back yard. So my only thought now is: Jesus, what an awful way to die. Pushed to exhaustion in darkness by an internal demon.
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.