The brownish-red fly, which lays eggs inside the bees and is smaller than a fruit fly, is native to North America and has been found in Canada and various states that include Alaska, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and New York, said Brian Brown, the curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and an expert on the parasitic fly.

Brown said the fly has been in Oregon for thousands of years but has just never been found in a honeybee in the state until now. In 1993, he identified a fly from Oregon as being an Apocephalus borealis. He doesn’t know, however, when it was actually found because it was part of a museum’s collection he borrowed. In 1934, a collector found the fly just south of Oregon in Gasquet, Calif., near Crescent City.

Oregon was home to 56,200 commercial honeybee hives last year, according to a report from the OSU Extension Service. About two dozen beekeepers owned 90 percent of them, Sagili said. Every year, Sagili and retired entomologist Dewey Caron survey the state’s commercial beekeepers to find out how their hives are faring. Between October 2010 and April 2011, they lost 17 percent of their combined hives versus the same period a year earlier, Sagili said. In 2009-10, they lost about 25 percent, he said.

To find out if the parasitic fly is playing a role in the losses, Sagili has placed traps by hives at two locations on campus and is encouraging commercial and hobby beekeepers to do the same near their colonies. Instructions on making traps can be found online.

People who don’t raise bees can also become ZomBee hunters just by collecting dead or dying honeybees they might find under porch or street lights. Sagili recommends placing the bees in a jar with multiple layers of cheesecloth secured over the top with a rubber band to let in air. Collectors should watch for the possible emergence of maggots. If they do find the parasite in the bees, they are encouraged to email Sagili. They can also submit their findings to the ZomBee Watch website so the fly’s whereabouts can be posted on an online map.