zombie fire ants controlled by phorid flies

Does Invasion Of The Body Snatchers sound like something reserved for the silver screen only? Perhaps not, thanks to the strange and unique life cycle of the phorid fly. Instead of personally caring for their larvae, this winged insect opts for converting prey into a living nursery, zombie style.

In South America female phorid flies have developed a bizarre reproductive strategy: They hover over fire ants, then inject their eggs into the ants with a needle-like appendage.

The egg grows and the resulting larva generally migrates to the ant’s head. The larva lives there for weeks–slurping up the brain and turning the ant into a “zombie,” in some cases compelling the ant to march 55 yards (50 meters) away from its colony to avoid attack by other fire ants.

Finally the baby fly decapitates its host and hatches, exiting through the ants head, as shown in the pictures in this gallery.

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