If you have ever seen AMC’s “The Walking Dead”, or any zombie show for that matter, then you know just how real and terrifying the undead can be. However, did you know that bugs can fall victim to the zombie epidemic as well? To celebrate the return of “The Walking Dead”, we’re bringing you reasons how pests can become a part of the undead, so you’ll be better prepared when the zombie apocalypse comes around.
Everyone knows that a zombie outbreak happens with the onset of some sort of disease, whether it is brought on by a parasite or just a natural virus. Well, roly pollies fall to the former, and become zombified when they ingest a certain type of parasite that lives in the intestinal tracts of starlings, a type of bird. Once these bugs ingest starling droppings (their favorite), the parasite enters the body of the roly-poly, hijacks its brain, and forces the bug to do a lot of crazy things, like make it’s presence known to the starling. The bird swoops down, picks up an easy meal, and the parasite makes its way back to the intestinal tract of the bird to start again.
Parasites can sure cause zombification, but what about fungus? Fans of the video game “The Last of Us” are familiar with this concept; cordyceps fungi infecting a living organism from the inside out. Ants are an easy victim of the fungus, and it has been notorious for wiping out entire ant colonies. Cordyceps fungi spores will latch onto the body of an ant, break its way through the exoskeleton, and then infect the brain. At this point, the ant is helpless; the fungus can move the ant around to a location where there is a better chance for its spores to infect more ants, say an entire ant colony. However, ants have evolved to detect an infected ant with the cordyceps fungus, and will carry that ant away from the colony to reduce the risk of further infection.
Even the cockroach is not free of zombification, as a quick sting to the head by a dementor wasp (yes there really is such a thing) will render the cockroach paralyzed, but still aware of its surroundings. The wasp then will drag the cockroach back to a safe location, to either feast on the roach or to plant larvae inside of it. Both scenarios are terrifying, even for a cockroach.
The zombie apocalypse may be many, many years away (hopefully), but the zombie battle in the pest world is ever strong. So, the next time you’re watching “The Walking Dead”, take a minute to think about the zombie bugs of the world, and how they are living through what you see on tv.