Social Spiders Turns into Zombies

parasitoid wasp Zatypota
 parasitoid wasp Zatypota spiders
Philippe Fernandez-Fournier

A terrifying new species of parasitic wasp that transforms its victims into dangerous zombies has been found within the Amazon.

The nightmare bug turns spider into helpless drones who abandon their own colonies to do the wasp’s bidding — before its larvae eat them alive.

The gruesome discovery was made in Ecuador was uncovered by scientists from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

They say the wasp’s behavior is a particularly “hardcore” variety of hijacking, that is when one animal manipulates another.

After leaving their homes, the spiders are made to spin a special cocoon for the wasp larvae, which can then hatch and eat the spider. The findings were revealed in Ecological entomology.

“Wasps manipulating the behavior of spiders has been determined before, but not at A level as complex as this,” said Philippe Fernandez-Fournier of the UBC’s department of zoological science.
“Not only is this wasp targeting a social species of spider however it’s making it leave its colony, that it rarely does.”

The parasitic wasp targets a spider known as anelosimus eximius known for living in giant colonies and cooperating with others to capture prey and raise their young.

Researchers detected some of the spiders were infected with a parasitic larva and were seen wandering faraway from their colonies to spin enclosed webs.

“It was terribly odd because they don’t usually do that, therefore I started taking notes,” said Fernandez-Fournier.

It was then the shocked scientists noticed the larvae belonged to an unknown species of Zatypota wasp.

“These wasps are terribly elegant looking and graceful,” said Samantha Straus, author of the study and a pH.D. student in UBC’s department of zoological science.

“But then they do the most brutal thing.”

A female wasp 1st lays an egg on a spider’s abdomen, that then hatches and starts feeding off the spider’s blood-like hemolymph while getting larger and slowly taking over its host’s body.

Then the spider deserts its colony to form a cocoon for the larva — before waiting to be fully devoured by the wasp’s young that then enters the protecting cocoon and emerges fully grown ten days later.

“This behavior modification is so hardcore,” Straus said.

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