Insects are among the most abundant lifeforms on earth, so it’s not very surprising that their parasites are equally abundant. And those parasites take many, many forms – most awesomely disgusting and terrifying.
First in today’s parasite buffet, courtesy of my most excellent friend Sam, is a tasty red berry! Oh, wait, that’s actually an ant. A newly discovered nematode alters the color of its host-ant’s abdomen, making it look like a ripe, delicious berry. As if that isn’t enough, the nematode also makes the ant wave its tasty abdomen in the air (normally a defense posture) and makes the ant taste better by suppressing the ant’s defensive chemicals. Birds eat the ant and poop out the parasite, the ants collect the bird poop & feed it to their larvae, and the cycle begins anew.
Next is Cordyceps, a fungus that can control bugs’ brains. Insects infected with Cordyceps have an uncontrollable urge to climb high up a plant and clamp their jaws tight. The fungus then eats their brain and sporulates out of their head. You really MUST watch this video for the time-lapse zombie-fungus-brain-eating sequences.
Finally, please enjoy hipsters driven mad by the natural world. Cracked.com features The 5 Most Horrifying Insects in the World. It’s the most hysterical (insane, not funny) article I think I’ve ever read – the entire piece reads like one primal scream. I don’t know why they’re so frightening – after all, they left out the bat-eating Amazonian Giant Centipede (video, with Davd Attenborough to soothe you).
Don’t worry. At least it’s not like you’ve got any mind-controlling parasites.