Twitching Zombie Ladybugs have raised curiosity and concern among insect enthusiasts and gardeners alike. These seemingly strange occurrences have caught the attention of people, especially when ladybugs are known for being beneficial insects in our gardens, helping to control plant-damaging pests. The phenomenon behind Twitching Zombie Ladybugs is both intriguing and vital for understanding the role they play in the insect world.
The name “Twitching Zombie Ladybugs” may sound terrifying, but there’s a remarkable scientific explanation behind their unusual behavior. This phenomenon is caused by a parasitic wasp, Dinocampus coccinellae, which preys on ladybirds. The wasp injects an egg into the ladybug, and when the larva hatches, it starts devouring the host’s internal organs. Interestingly, the ladybug is still alive and remains on top of the wasp pupa, twitching intermittently as a form of protection.
While this extraordinary process allows the wasp to nurture its offspring, it also highlights the complex and dynamic interactions between different insect species. Understanding these relationships can provide valuable insights into maintaining a healthy ecosystem, where Twitching Zombie Ladybugs play a small but significant role.
Twitching Zombie Ladybugs Explained
Dinocampus Coccinellae Parasite
Dinocampus coccinellae is a parasitic wasp that targets ladybugs. The female wasp lays her eggs inside the ladybug’s abdomen, where the larva grows and feeds on the host.
- Wasp: Parasitic wasp species
- Ladybugs: The host of the parasite
When the larva is ready to pupate, it releases a cocktail of chemicals, which effectively zombifies the ladybug. The ladybug then starts twitching uncontrollably, a behavior that:
- Deters predators, who perceive the twitching as a sign of a sick or dangerous prey.
- Protects the wasp pupa, housed beneath the twitching ladybug.
The ladybug then becomes a “bodyguard” for the wasp’s cocoon. It remains on top of the cocoon, still twitching periodically to ward off predators. The pros and cons of this parasitic relationship are:
- The wasp larva gets protection from predators.
- The ladybug sometimes survives the process.
- The ladybug experiences a decrease in its quality of life.
- Many ladybugs die as a result of the parasitic infestation.
|Host and involuntary bodyguard
|Act as a predator deterrent
|Lay eggs inside ladybugs
In summary, twitching zombie ladybugs are created when the parasitic wasp Dinocampus coccinellae lays its eggs inside a ladybug’s abdomen, leading to mind control and bodyguard behaviors.
The Biology Behind the Phenomenon
University of Montreal Research
Researchers from the University of Montreal have discovered a fascinating interaction between spotted lady beetles (Coleomegilla maculata) and a parasitoid wasp. When infected by the wasp, the lady beetle exhibits “zombie-like” bodyguard behavior. Fanny Maure, one of the lead researchers, published the findings in Biology Letters.
D. Coccinellae Paralysis Virus
The main culprit behind this phenomenon is the D. coccinellae paralysis virus, which infects adult spotted lady beetles. This virus is lethal, altering the beetle’s biology and ultimately leading to paralysis. These infected beetles are referred to as “zombie ladybugs.”
|Infected “Zombie” Ladybug
- Pro: The virus is effective at manipulating the host.
- Con: Infected ladybugs have reduced longevity.
Host Manipulation Mechanisms
The virus effectively takes over the beetle’s cells, altering their genes and mechanisms, which in turn affects their behavior. The spotted lady beetle becomes a “zombie,” protecting the parasitoid wasp’s eggs and developing larvae from natural enemies.
Examples of host manipulation by the virus include:
- Increased bodyguard behavior
- Paralysis (to protect the wasp’s larvae)
- Reduced survival
Despite being a fascinating natural phenomenon, it’s crucial to understand that these events have detrimental consequences for the spotted lady beetle population. The insight gained from studying this intricate biological interaction may further contribute to the scientific understanding of host-parasite relationships and host manipulation mechanisms.
Other Examples of Parasitic Behavior
Spider Manipulation by Fungus
A fascinating example of parasitic behavior can be observed in the interaction between spiders and the Ophiocordyceps fungus. The fungus infects spiders, leading to behavioral changes in the host:
- Infected spiders spin a specific type of web
- This web supports the fungus’s fruiting body
- The spider dies and releases spores from the fungus, helping it spread
This type of manipulation benefits the fungus by ensuring its survival and reproduction.
Lacewings and Their Natural Enemies
Lacewings are insects known for their usefulness in controlling pests in gardens and agricultural fields. However, they can also fall victim to parasitic behavior:
- Wasps lay eggs in lacewing larvae, turning them into parasitoid hosts
- The wasp larvae consume the lacewing’s resources and eventually paralyze it, using it as protection against predators
|Type of Parasite
|Alters spider web-spinning behavior
|Fungal reproduction and dispersal
|Attacks lacewing larva
|Consumption of host’s resources and protection against predators
These examples of parasitic behavior in ladybirds, spiders, and lacewings demonstrate how diverse organisms have evolved complex strategies for exploiting their hosts in order to survive and reproduce.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Read about Twitching Zombie Ladybugs
Ed. Note: Our crack technical staff brought this wonderful link to our attention. Read about a Wasp that parasitizes Lady Bugs here: http://gizmodo.com/5815382/twitching-zombie-ladybugs-make-great-shelters?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews