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  • This article by Betsy Marston originally appeared in the Nov 22, 2012 issue of High Country News.
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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Heard Around the West     Comments: 0

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Zombies and zombees

News: Nov 22, 2012
by Betsy Marston

COLORADO AND WASHINGTON

Zombies must be a little too much in movie news these days. Maureen Briggs of Montrose, Colo., was fishing at Lost Lake on the Gunnison National Forest when a man and his two sons hiked by, with the younger boy asking: “Have you seen any zombies here?” Her reply, “Not yet.”

But in Kent, a suburb of Seattle, residents are witnessing a real invasion of the living dead, reports The Seattle Times, as zombie bees, or “zombees,” flood the area. Unlike healthy bees that go to sleep at night, zombees stay active, buzzing around lights “in jerky patterns and finally flopping on the floor.” It’s all the fault of female scuttle flies, a small parasitic species. They land on the backs of foraging honeybees, and using their “needle-sharp ovipositors,” send eggs into the bees’ abdomens. “They basically eat the insides out of the bee,” says John Hafernik, a San Francisco State University biologist, who has begun tracking the spread of the zombees. And in a departure from the plot of horror movies about aliens, “it’s the parasite that’s native to North America, not the bees,” which settlers imported from Europe centuries ago. Zombees have been spotted in California, with 80 percent of hives in the San Francisco Bay Area infected, as well as western Washington, Oregon, and South Dakota. For the latest information gathered and shared by interested citizens, check ZombeeWatch.org. 

MONTANA AND COLORADO

By now, everyone surely knows the mantra, “A fed bear is a dead bear,” but in Heron, Mont., a community near the Idaho border, Barbara Sweeney told the Sanders County Ledger that she’d been feeding many bears for a long time because they needed her help “to survive in the wild.” During the 22 years she ran an animal sanctuary, she said, people would drop off orphan bears that needed to learn “to run from outfitters and pickups.” Sweeney, who insists she never knew that what she was doing was illegal, is distressed because wardens from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recently captured and destroyed seven bears that Sweeney had been feeding — including a 495-pound male and 300-pound female. “People have known I’ve been doing this for years,” she said. “If they would have said something, I would have stopped. I can’t get over killing these animals.” A spokesman for the state wildlife agency said that feeding bears was a safety hazard and that doing so leads directly to their death. 

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