Humans are now one large step closer to producing armies of undead, zombie hordes who live only to feast on the brains of the living and reproduce by infecting non-zombies with their “zombie virus” through their saliva or other bodily fluids. This is thanks to the work of a team of scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, who have documented a kind of wasp that zombifies cockroaches.
Ampulex compressa enjoys licking pieces of wood, long walks on the beach and necromancy.
The Ampulex compressa actually stings a roach twice, once to disable it, and again (this time directly into the brain) with a cocktail of neuro toxins to create a willing slave. The wasp then grabs the cockroach’s antenna and walks it “like a dog on a leash”, according to Frederic Libersat in this article, back to its evil lair. There, the wasp lays an egg on the belly of the cockroach. When the egg hatches, the adorable larvae then eats the cockroach alive. Once it’s done feasting, it weaves a cocoon inside the cockroach, waits a little while, then BOOM bursts out of the cocoon and the cockroach as a beautiful zombie-producing wasp of its own. Who said the story about the ugly duckling was just a fable?
The team from Ben-Gurion claims to be able to replicate the effect on a cockroach on their own, AND release the cockroach from the zombie spell using an antidote. Their work has immediate implications for understanding how chemicals influence creatures’ behaviors. The family of Katie Holmes has also expressed interest in securing some of the team’s antidote.
Note: This wasp has been blogged about before on SB by The Loom, but the new findings from the Ben-Gurion posse, as far as we know, have not been.