Although they cause fear along with the rest of their supernatural friends like vampires and werewolves, zombies aren’t just a scare for movies and televisions. In the insect world, they’re real! Check out our Top 6 bug and insects with the unfortunate luck of being turned into zombies.
While we’re not fans of pesky cockroaches, they don’t deserve to be turned into mindless zombies. And that’s exactly what the jewel wasp does to them. When the wasp is ready to lay its eggs, they inject an unsuspecting cockroach with venom that not only paralyzes it but also targets their decision-making capabilities. Unable to move on its own, the wasp leads the cockroach into a burrow where they will lay their eggs on them. As the larva grows, it slowly consumes the cockroach’s insides, pupates in the cockroach’s abdomen and finally emerges from the cockroach as an adult wasp.
5. Carpenter Ants
Several species of carpenter ant fall victim to a fungus that wants to control them. The Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus is a parasite that infects these ants with its spores. The fungus controls the ant’s action by forcing it to climb a high tree and bite on a leaf without letting go. The ants eventually die, and days later a mushroom-like stalk protrudes from the dead ant’s head for additional fungal spores to be released for widespread coverage to infect other ants.
Hairworms need an aquatic environment to reproduce; however, they only affect land-faring insects like crickets. So, what’s the solution to finding a wet habitat? These parasitic worms release neurotransmitters into the cricket causing it to move closer and closer towards the water, something they try to avoid at all costs. The hairworm will make the cricket commit suicide by jumping into a body of water and drowning where it will wiggle its way out to reproduce and complete its life cycle.
3. Corn Earworm Moths
Rather than mind control and forcing an insect to harm itself, the Hz-2v virus is a parasite that causes corn earworm moths to mate uncontrollably. The virus is sexually transmitted and passed along by hosts that reproduce on a constant basis. Rather than letting the earworm moth do this naturally, it will interfere with a female’s pheromones and forces them to release up to seven times the normal amount to attract male suitors. By increasing the number of mates these moths would typically encounter, the virus can propagate at an alarming rate.
While spiders may think they’re a superior predator, they need to be on their guard again parasitic wasps. Even for such a formidable insect, spiders are turned into zombie caregivers for the wasps’ offspring. After stinging a spider, the wasp will lay its larvae inside their body, and transmitted in their venom is a new set of marching orders for the arachnid. No longer content with building its web, the spider will have an uncontrollable urge to construct a silk cocoon. Why is it constructing a cocoon? The cocoon, when completed, becomes home for the wasp’s larvae that will eventually grow and eat their way out of the spider while it’s still alive!
1. Gypsy Moth Caterpillar
Lastly, while the gypsy moth caterpillar is beautiful and intricate with its color and ornate spines, it’s targeted by a virus that wants to turn it into a biological weapon. The Baculovirus virus takes control of the caterpillar’s mind and forces them to climb. These caterpillars, unable to control themselves, continue their ascent to the top of a tree where they will wait to die. During this time, the virus breaks down the caterpillar’s tissue and replicating itself feverishly from the inside out. This process causes the zombie caterpillar to effectively melt into a slimy goo that drips down to the environment below to infect other unsuspecting caterpillars.
“8 Parasites that Create Zombie Animals” Mental Floss
“Zombie Animals: 5 Real-Life Cases of Body-Snatching” Live Science
“Meet 5 “Zombie” Parasites That Mind-Control Their Hosts” National Geographic