I know. You may be reading this post and thinking, "It's almost Christmas. Why would anyone be blogging about zombies?" Well. I couldn't help it. There is an obsession with zombies and I never took it very seriously until I saw the October cover of National Geographic magazine http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/10/16/this-month-in-national-geographic-parasites-and-their-zombies/ about zombification in the animal world. Until I saw it, I didn’t know just how common it was. Zombification is the ability of one creature to control another creature for their own benefit – usually so that it can reproduce. But zombies can be used to symbolize more than a mere means for another creature to sustain itself or to continue its species.
In the television series “The Walking Dead”, which is based on the comic series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, all of humanity has been infected by a virus that will cause each and every person to take on “a second life”, so to speak, as a zombie after they have died. The body is dead but the brain continues to function, so that the dead are cursed to wreak havoc on the living. Hence all people are the walking dead. And then there is also “World War Z”, which is based on the novel by Max Brooks. The hero, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is sent by the UN to find a pathogen to end a global outbreak that creates zombies, uniquely called Zekes, before it wipes out all of humanity. In both fictional tales zombification is a parasitic infection where the host is no longer in control of their faculties.
However, there is the very real recent phenomenon in the insect kingdom of zombees. Zombie flies, a parasitic bug, once known to infect bumble bees have moved on to include another already endangered host, the European honey bee. It enters worker bees’ bodies through the thorax (where the stomach and digestive organs are located). Infected honey bees called zombees begin to display bizarre behavior that eventually includes abandoning the hive in the middle of the night. They die shortly afterwards and then the parasitic larvae that they are carrying feed on their insides. About a week later, up to 13 zombie fly larvae leave the dead bees’ bodies just below the neck.
I wonder if the honey bees’ very real plight is not a reflection of the inner foreboding within us and with their doomsday apocalyptic themes, zombie tales may represent the aura of our times - the feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end and that we are hopelessly enslaved to the outcome.
However, there is a ripple of hope. I’ll get back to you all on that. But in the meantime. Tell me what you think. What are your thoughts about zombification?