A deadly parasite reported in honeyebees in California and South Dakota and thought to be released to fight fire ants may be a case of mistaken identity, say Texas AgriLife Extension scientists.
Texas A&M, the University of Texas and the U.s. Department of Agriculture in Gainesville, Fla., have been releasing several species of phorid flies since 2000 to control red imported fire ants, according to a news release.
These are not the same species that have been reported parasitizing honeybees. That insect is Apocephalus borealis, which is native to North America. It is known to parasitize bumblebees and paper wasps.
It also attacks non-native honeybees, causing them to abandon their hives at night.
“Honeybees are in serious decline for no specific reason that has yet been found.” Paul Nester, a Houston-based Texas Agrilife entomologist, said in the release. “Anything that hurts the honeybee also has the potential for damaging our food supply since these wonderful insects are our main crop pollinators."
Laboratory and field experiences during the past 15 years with the parasitic wasps released to control fire ants show they are very species specific and don't go after honeybees, according to the release.