Inside SFS

Zombie Flies!

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4th Grade

Fourth graders learned about a gnarly relationship between a recently discovered parasitic fly and their honeybee hosts and what they as citizen scientists can do to help.

If your 4th grader came home screaming about zombies in San Francisco last week, please don’t fret.  They’re simply excited about a recent scientific discover in our city: the Zombie Fly!

During lunch last week, we watched a short KQED Science video entitled “ZomBees: Flight of the Living Dead,” in which students learned about an important accidental discovery made here in the Bay Area.  Dr. John Hafernik, Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, and his research team are studying Apocephalus borealis, a small fly that parasitizes the European honeybee, the most common honey-producing bee found in hobby and commercial hives.  Their name for the study?  ZomBee Watch.  (I won’t spoil the details about this peculiar relationship.  For the details, please watch the short video!)

In addition to learning about this parasitic relationship, students also were introduced to ‘citizen science,’ or ways in which people can contribute to science research.  ZomBee Watch researchers have shared instructions for citizen scientists to build a small inexpensive light trap to collect samples of potentially parasitized bees and observe them over a couple weeks.   By participating, students could collect their own data, draw conclusions, and contribute their findings to our understanding of this ecological relationship.  Pretty nifty, right?  You can see the impact these numerous informal scientists have had via this Google Map on the ZomBee website.

Given the warm response from the class and multiple launch points for supplementary science learning, we can anticipate more science shorts to appear in the future.  Plus, it has been great for checking on science vocabulary imbedded in the video.  Last week’s words:  parasite, mortality, phorid fly, pathogen, and (yours truly) citizen science.  

If you’d like more examples of great science videos and other resources, please feel free to check our class Youtube page!

Posted October 12, 2015