A staple of horror films, zombies have never been so popular. Hollywood seems fascinated by a zombie apocalypse while AMC’s The Walking Dead brings the flesh-eating undead into our living rooms. Of course, in the human world zombies don’t actually exist. But in the animal world it’s a different story.
In Thailand’s rainforest canopy a parasitic fungus turns carpenter ants into zombie ants and forces them to do its bidding. When ants walk across a fungus-coated leaf, fungal spores adhere to its body. Piercing the insect’s tough outer cuticle, spores enter the ant’s brain, causing it to act erratically.
Instead of industriously marching with its nest mates, zombie ants meander about, convulsing and falling to the forest floor. The fungus forces the ant to walk to an area ideal for fungal reproduction.
Jaws of Death
As if all this were not spooky enough, as the sun reaches high noon the fungus forces the ant to bite into the main vein of a leaf and then locks the insect’s powerful mandibles so it cannot release its grip. Hanging from its locked jaws, the ant dies.
The fungus continues to grow inside the insect’s body until a spore head erupts from the ant’s head to spew fungal spores into the air and restart the cycle. (Click to watch a Penn State video of zombie ants in action.)
Fortunately, the lives of New Jersey carpenter ants are not nearly so dramatic, but the damage these wood-destroying ants can do to your Monmouth County home can be just as disastrous. If carpenter ants attack, protect your home and call the ant extermination experts at Allison Pest Control.