(ORDO NEWS) — Everything that was shown in horror films about zombies is true! But on a different scale. While it is known for sure about zombie insects, most often they are parasitic creatures.
There are zombies on planet Earth. However (yet) not among people. Some zombies are in the water, others on the ground, others in the bushes and trees. Spoiler: most of all zombie wasps.
Types of zombies
When an Ophiocordyceps unilateralis spore meets an ant, the latter is in mortal danger. The spore germinates and enters the ant’s body through holes in its exoskeleton.
The fungus then begins to grow inside the ant’s body, consuming the soft tissues, leaving the vital organs intact, as the insect must remain alive and fully functional for some time to truly benefit the fungus.
When the fungus ends its vital activity, it transmits new spores and sticks its long branching threads into the ant’s brain. There, the fungus releases chemicals that poison the insect’s brain, turning it into a mindless vehicle to move the population.
Usually the victims of the spider meet their death in the web, but sometimes the creator himself gets it. There, using an arsenal of toxins and mind-altering chemicals, the wasp Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga turns the spider into a slave and prey, and its web into a refuge.
The female wasp paralyzes the spider with a sting and then lays an egg on its abdomen. When the egg hatches, the larva lives on the spider and sucks the hemolymph (a type of arthropod blood) from its body for nourishment until it is able to live without its host.
3. Wasp cockroach
Like H. argyaphaga, the emerald (or gemstone) cockroach wasp lives free as an adult, but begins life inside the host. As their name suggests, these wasps use cockroaches as live nurseries for their little bundles of joy.
When the female wasp is ready to lay her eggs, she swoops down, lands on the cockroach’s back, and plunges her stinger into its midsection. The cockroach’s legs give out and it falls to the ground, unable to escape or resist for a while.
The larva will hatch from the egg she lays. The baby will bite into the belly of the cockroach and will wriggle inside, eating everything in its path, while the cockroach is outliving its last days.
4. Caterpillar Wasp
Females of the genus Glyptapanteles lay many eggs inside their caterpillars. The larva will soon begin to weave its cocoons. It seems that the caterpillar will get off a little easier than those unfortunate cockroaches and spiders, but its job is not yet done.
Some larvae actually stay inside the caterpillar and forgo the opportunity to pupate and mature for the benefit of their siblings. They take control of their master’s body and force him to stand guard over the cocoons.
The parasitic hairworm grows on land, particularly inside a grasshopper or cricket, but lives in water as an adult. To make the transition into the water, he forces his master to swim.
The worm feeds the insect with proteins (which can mimic those the host makes on its own) that sabotage its central nervous system and force it to jump into the nearest body of water.
The host drowns, and the adult worm, three to four times the length of the corpse it once called home, wriggles and swims away in search of a mate. The young they produce will contaminate the water until they are swallowed by a host they can call their own.
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