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martedì 19 agosto 2014

THE ZOMBIE BEES AND THE RESEARCHER: AN INTERVIEW

(in Eng?ish)

The interview opens with a swarm of emaciated bees chasing PiPs in a web post-apocalyptic (and a bit 'eucalyptic' too, you know, just because of some munching koalas that have been put here and there to add an 'ooooooh -big dreamy anime like eyes- so cute' touch to downplay the whole horror zombie thing) scenario which is a mix of '28 days later', 'Mary Poppins' and 'Animal house' (shush, shush, don't ask, PiPs' reality is a very very, very peculiar place).

zombees chasing PiPs_by sciencemug
by sciencemug
 
PiPs- Those damn zombie bees! Now I bet we'll have also to face the zombie flowers, and the zombie honey, and then the zombie honey-moons the zombie moons the zombie Apollo 13s and eventually the zombie Kevin Bacons! Ghaaaahhhhh, a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon zombie world... Ghaaaahhhhh... Bloody dead flying things! We're so, so doomed... Ghaaaahhhhh! 
Bee of the swarm1- Bzzrains, bzzraaains, bzzraaaa... Hey, wait a min, if we’re looking for brains, why the hell are we chasing a brainless post of an idiotic blog? 
Bos2- Dude, if there were any logic in this mess you think we'd be screaming 'brains' instead of 'pollen' in the first place? 
Bos3- We can scream?

PiPs_by sciencemug
        PiPs_by SM        
PiPs keeps running around the internet till it sees a girl at the url of San Francisco State University


P- Hey! Hey, you, what are you doing there, take shelter, they're coming! Hey, I'm talking to you, who are you?


Miss Erika Bueno's portrait_by sciencemug
E.Bueno by SM
Researcher- My name is Erika Bueno and I’m a graduate student at San Francisco State University. My research focuses on solving the mystery of zombie bees [aka ZomBees]. I would like to figure out why infected honey bees behave so strangely when parasitized by a particular kind of fly! My main goal is to study the brains of ZomBees to understand what is causing them to behave strangely!


PiPs_by sciencemugP- This is great! So you study the zombie bees (or 'ZomBees' as you call 'em), this means you certainly have the answers to my questions: what happens to these bees? What 'zombieizes' them? How? What are you doing to understand the 'how' part in detail? Why Battlestar Galactica ended in that crappy way? Do this last question make it clear to you that I don't know what I'm saying the 103% of the times?

Miss Erika Bueno's portrait_by sciencemugEB- A tiny parasitic fly called the ‘zombie fly’ (scientific name: Apocephalus borealis) [PicA] turns bees into ZomBees! Female zombie flies use a needle-like organ, the ovipositor, [PicB] to inject their eggs inside the bees bodies [PicC]. The eggs then hatch and eat honey bees guts! Parasitized honey bees, the ZomBees, behave then very strangely at night. They fly out of their hive, land underneath lights and become disoriented before dying shortly after.
 
Pic A, B, C
PIC A; PIC B; PIC C [CC pics; adapted by sciencemug (source: wikia.com)] (!)

Their zombie like behavior has led me to ask “what is causing this behavior?” And “are zombie flies controlling this behavior?” I’m answering these questions
by studying gene expression inside the brains of the infected ZomBees [in comparison with the one inside the brains of healthy bees SM's note] as well as their behavior before abandoning the hive. 
(I’m not sure why Battlestar Galactica ended in a crappy way. I’ve never watched the series but maybe I will start this weekend! Haha!)

PiPs_by sciencemugP- Fascinating indeed -PiPs hasn't the slightest idea of what 'fascinating indeed' means, but its 'How to pretend to have an actual bunch of (working) neurons under the skull while doing an interview. Fifty two point seven tips&rigmaroles' handbook suggests to say it after an answer coming from a clever person. Then it continues- Miss Bueno, Dante once said that (I go off the cuff with this) "if all the bees on Earth kicked the bucket, humankind would kick the same creepy bucket shortly after" or was it  Einstein (#)... Nope, Dante, the swimmer guy said it, yeah, the dude with the messy hair is the one that used the famous "alea iacta est and west is where curiosity killed the cat" Klingon saying to open the first UN meeting in 1511 CE. Anyway, Miss Bueno, why is it of primary importance to protect bees not only from the ‘zombie’ threat, but from any threat in general?

Miss Erika Bueno's portrait_by sciencemugEB- Zombie flies and other more immediate threats such as pesticides, parasitic mites, and many other factors may be negatively affecting the health of honey bee colonies in a synergistic manner*. It is very important to study how these factors interact with each other to further understand the dynamics of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)** and colony declines. Honey bees are essential to agriculture and wild ecosystems 3* so it’s highly essential that we conserve and protect them from disappearing.

PiPs' "Fascinating indeed" face (by sciencemug)
PiPs' "Fascinating indeed" face (by sciencemug)

PiPs_by sciencemugP- How did you fund your research project on the zombie bees? Here are some educated guesses of mine:
- you kidnapped the zombie world queen bee and asked for ransom to the UZQBNFSWTKL (the Union of Zombie Queen Bees and Not Feeling So Well Too Kings Lears)
- you blackmailed the queen bee of Africa (you brave rogue) with a video that showed it selling the secret recipe for the perfect honey to the oligopoly of the sweeteners producers in exchange of the phone number of the singer of the second most important Qeen tribute band in French Guiana (the singer of the most important one being allergic to pollen) and a voucher for 3 liposuctions and 4 botox treatments
- you found the pot of gold at the end of a particularly heedless rainbow
- your secret last name is Gates

Miss Erika Bueno's portrait_by sciencemugEB- Haha! Great guesses! I actually funded my research project on ZomBees by creating a crowdfunding campaign on experiment.com where anyone can donate to our research [and to many other science projects SM's note]! My lab mate [Maria JosePastor-Infantas] and I successfully raised our funding with the help of many supporters in only 40 days! We are very thankful for all of the support we have received and will begin to update everyone on the status of our research very soon!
PiPs_by sciencemugP- Well, thank you very much for your time and good luck with your research. sciencemug and I whish you tons of solid data and lots of research papers with your name as first or last. But first, one last question: Erica M. Bueno, why science?

Miss Erika Bueno's portrait_by sciencemugEB- Why thank you so much!
I chose to become a part of science because I have a drive for discovering and generating new information about the natural world, especially insects. Science is important because it not only advances knowledge in many different disciplines such as physics and biology but also provides the foundation for societal values in medicine, conservation, and environmental issues.

Once the interview is over and the kind researcher is gone, the blog Special Effect Unit supervisor shows up still disguised as the 'Bee of the swarm2'

Bos2 aka DungBeetle (by sciencemug)
Bos2 aka DungBeetle (by sciencemug)
Bos2- Are we done now? Can we stop pretending to be zombie bees and get rid of these stupid cosplays?
P- Yeah, we good.
Bos2 to all the others fake bees of the fake swarm- Ok guys, we are done! Uff, this thing itches. Where did you find these costumes anyway?
P- Just stole 'em from an episode of 'Maya the Honey Bee' which nobody's watching since 1987. 
Bos2- Sweet (literally) eh eh. Well mate, take care, me and my fella dung beetles gotta go back to roll now, if you know what I mean... 
P- Eh eh, right. Thanks pal, I owe y'all one!


The ‘Researcher Suggests’ corner:
“If you wish to learn more about our ZomBees, please read this open access journal article on the discovery of zombie fly-parasitized honey bees.
And if you would like to become a part of our mission to track ZomBees in both the U.S. and Canada, please visit www.zombeewatch.org. The website contains tutorials on how you can become a ZomBee hunter.
Lastly, to learn more about our research visit our experiment.com site. Although our campaign is now over, you can still access information about the logistics of our research and lab notes!” 
Erika Bueno


NOTES
(!)
Pics A,B,C have been selected by sciencemug, not by Miss Bueno. Any scientific inaccuracy about Pics A,B,C is SM's sole responsibility
(#)
The actual quote seems to be: "If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, Man would only have four years left to live" and it is traditionally attributed to Albert Einstein, although, at this humble blog's knowledge, there is no evidence that 'the dude with the messy hair' really said it. Check this interesting page on the issue.
*
 

Meaning that those bloody parasites, pesticides and ‘many other factors’ contribute, all together, in a more or less related way, to rub out the poor honey bees
**
 

”[CCD is] a syndrome characterized by worker bees abandoning their hive” (1) and the consequent loss of the hive
3*
 

-“Western honey bees (Apis mellifera) are undoubtedly the single-most valuable animal pollinators to agriculture” (2)
-“Managed honey bees are the most important commercial pollinators of those crops which depend on animal pollination for reproduction and which account for 35% of the global food production (3)
-“Honey bees are essential pollinators: in 2000, the value of American crops pollinated by bees was estimated to be $14.6 billion (4)


Bibliography
1- Core, A., Runckel, C., Ivers, J., Quock, C., Siapno, T., Denault, S., Brown, B., Derisi, J., Smith, C. D., and Hafernik, J. (2012). Anew threat to honey bees, the parasitic phorid fly Apocephalus borealis. PLoS One 7, e29639.
2- Williams, G. R., Tarpy, D. R., vanEngelsdorp, D., Chauzat, M. P., Cox-Foster, D. L., Delaplane, K. S., Neumann, P., Pettis, J. S., Rogers, R. E., and Shutler, D. (2010). ColonyCollapse Disorder in context. Bioessays 32, 845-846.
3- Genersch, E. (2010). Honeybee pathology: current threats to honey bees and beekeeping. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 87, 87-97.
4- Oldroyd, B. P. (2007). What'skilling American honey bees? PLoS Biol 5, e168.

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