The zombie wasp was photographed after a parasitic fungus infected it and took over her body.
Alabama Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries posted photos of the wasp on Facebook, where he can be seen holding a twig in County Fayette. Parasitic fungi can be seen sprouting from the wasp’s body.
The wasp is infected with the Cordyceps fungus, which att*cks and kills insects.
When the fungus attaches to an insect, it slowly penetrates its skeleton and brain. The insect effectively becomes a zombie when the infection slowly takes over its body. As the fungus spreads throughout the insect, it feeds on the insides of the insect and then begins to grow out of the insect’s body.
It continues to grow for about three weeks and then begins to produce spores. These spores can attach themselves to any other insect nearby and start the process all over again.
The division said a lumberjack named Appling had noticed “this nice example of wildlife” while scouting the woods.
“You see a wasp here that fell victim to a CORDYCEPS MUSHROOM infection… See how it grabs a twig? THE MUSHROOM DID IT TO HIM, ”said Alabama’s Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries in the photo caption. “There are thousands of species of Cordyceps, each of which specializes in a SPECIFIC INSECT SPECIES !!”
The unusual-looking stems protruding from the wasp’s body is a fungus that is preparing or already producing spores.
Parasitic fungi also att*ck ants in the same way and can sometimes destroy entire colonies. It can be found all over the world, but is especially widespread in tropical forests where it often infects colonies of globular ants.
Despite the gruesome way it kills its prey, the fungus controls insect populations and prevents them from growing.
“Yet another way populations are kept in check… Mr. Appling is doing his part. Cordyceps does its part. What an amazing system, ”Alabama’s Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries said in the caption.
The infection does not become common for a while, and infected insects may appear normal for several days after the fungus has attached itself.
Ants are usually able to detect when another ant is infected. Infected ants are often ejected from the colony to prevent further spread of the deadly fungus.
Cordyceps is used in traditional Chinese medicine, but there is no scientific evidence that its use has any clinical effect on human ailments.
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