Zombies Around Us

Have you ever felt you were being controlled by someone else?

Be glad you’re not a ladybug. These little aphid predators can fall victim themselves to a parasitic wasp in a particularly gruesome way.  These wasps sting ladybugs, leaving one egg inside. When the egg hatches, the larva eats its host from the inside out.  After the parasite emerges, it spins a cocoon between the ladybug’s legs.  What does the ladybug do?  It stands guard over the cocoon and protects it!  In other words, the parasitic wasp has taken control of the ladybug.

There are actually a number of parasites that can effectively turn their hosts into zombies. The horsehair worm & the house cricket and a parasitic protozoan & the rat are two more quick examples.

I learned this on my recent trip to California by reading the November 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine. I’ve subscribed to National Geographic for most of my life and I read them when I travel because they’re relatively compact.  This article was the cover story with the title “Real Zombies: The Strange Science of the Living Dead” and an inside title of “Mindsuckers”.  If you don’t have access to the magazine, there is an on-line version at http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/11/mindsuckers/zimmer-text

It really is a fascinating subject… if you have a strong enough stomach.

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