Roaches are bad. But you know what’s worse? ZOMBIE ROACHES! Zombie roaches are created by one of the many species of parasitic wasp – these wasps paralyze another species of insect or spider and lay their eggs in their living bodies. (The most well known of these is the tarantula spider.) When the eggs hatch , an adorable little wasp baby eats its way out of the fresh meat.
At least for one species, the paralyzing agent is not physical, but mental. The jewel wasp, which lays its eggs in cockroaches, injects venom into the place in the roach’s brain that essentially controls free will. Unable to walk, the roach is dragged into the wasp’s burrow to stay nice and fresh for the little waspling.
Now that I think about it, this is a bit disappointing. Zombie roaches are actually the opposite of the traditional zombie, which is dead yet running about – the roach is alive but paralyzed. I suppose we’ll have to turn to the robo-roaches for our dose of roach-related nefarious schemes.
Fortunately, there is a real zombie-creature in nature – my favorite parasite of all time, the rhizocephalan barnacle. It finds a crab, wraps around its nervous system, and turns it into a little crab-bot. The crab-bot carefully carries around and grooms the rhizocephalan until the rhizocephalan wants to reproduce. Then the rhizocephalan makes the crab-bot do the ocean equivalent of throwing itself under a bus – the crab goes out in the open and waves its claws around until it gets eaten by a fish. And the rhizocephalan life cycle continues…