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The Wasp That Turns Prey Into Real-Life Zombies

Everybody remember the epic 1997 sci-fi film Starship Troopers? Specifically the “brain bug” that had that long bendy straw-like appendage that it could whip out and jam into the brains of its hapless human victims? Well, good news everyone! There’s a real-life approximation of that very creature, and its called the Ampulex Compressa, a.k.a. the jewel cockroach wasp.

The female wasp, as described in the above video, has a process of giving birth and feeding its young that’s… well… quite possibly the most terrifying thing you’ll read today. So let’s break it down!

For its first neurochemical magic trick, the wasp plunges its stinger into the “thoracic ganglion” of its cockroach prey, disabling its front legs with a cocktail of chemicals. It then proceeds to locate the head ganglia responsible for escape reflexes, and renders the cockroach incapable of running away. Once the cockroach is paralyzed, the wasp rips off its antennae, to both take a drink of its blood and regulate the amount of venom it has injected into its system. It then, like a cowboy leading cattle, tugs on the remaining antennae of the cockroach to direct it back to its burrow, which is where things get really interesting (disgusting).

The zombified cockroach—it can still move, and is still completely alive, but not in control of itself—arrives back at the burrow, the wasp lays an egg on the roach’s abdomen, which, upon hatching, feeds on its host for several days. It then chews its way into the cockroach’s innards, eats its internal organs, and forms a cocoon inside its body. The wasp, once fully grown, emerges from the cockroach as an adult, ready to take on this bright and shiny world so full of wonder and beauty! Also, the whole time the wasp is eating the organs and cocooning and all that, the cockroach is still technically alive.

Mother Nature everybody!

While it’s tempting to draw a parallel between the wasp’s zombified cockroach and zombies in pop culture, they’re not really the same thing. Zombies like those on The Walking Dead have a goal: eat humans. The zombiroach on the other hand, can only be controlled by outside influences. It’s also never technically dead. So we can at least count on all that brain-eating and coming back to life stuff staying in the world of horrific fantasy. Although the brain bugs in Starship Troopers are found on other worlds… And scientists have just theorized a mysterious ninth planet

BRB, gonna buy me a fancy helmet.

Will you be able to sleep at all for the next several days?! Let us know in the comments section below!

HT: National Geographic

Image: National Geographic

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