Animals practice Mind Control!

Attempts at mind control are usually only seen in science fiction movies and fantasy novels, but who would have thought that for something that we can only fantasize about does in fact occur around us.  There are  actually parasites in the animal kingdom that utilizes this ability or other methods to “zombify” their victims for survival! We will have a quick look at three different parasite and victim pairs that demonstrate this astonishing power.

Sacculina carcini

Orange Monster!

Sacculina (orange blob above) is a type of barnacle that are able to pick up the scent of crabs and once it finds one, it will enter the crab’s shell and attach itself to its poor victim. From then now, the barnacle will not only absorb nutrients from its crustacean host but also gain control of its mind.The crab would literally halt all normal behaviors like molting and mating as such actions take away valuable energy from the barnacle. To add insult to injury, the crab would actually take care of the barnacle’s offspring when it reproduces. Talk about the ultimate zombie nanny.

Ampulex compressa, Emerald Jewel Wasp

Zombified Cockroach

Zombified Cockroach

So many of us would not hesitate to smack the lights out of cockroaches with whatever makeshift weapons within our reach. Thus here’s a story to hopefully instill some pity for them into you. Emerald jewel wasps (Ampulex compressa) attach themselves to cockroaches and injects venom into their heads to impair their ability to move or be alert. Once these “zombification” processes are completed, the wasps would then inject their larvaes into the cockcoaches and they would be consumed inside out. Truly horrifying indeed.


Partially-Eaten Defender

Partially-Eaten Defender

Here’s a type of parasitic wasp (Glyptapanteles) that is even more amazing. Similar to the Emerald Jewel Wasp mentioned above, this wasp injects its larvae into its victims, which is a caterpillar instead of a cockroach, and these larvae will grow by consuming the caterpillar from the inside. However, as they emerge from their host after some time, they will attach themselves to a nearby plant and the caterpillar will transform into their bodyguard. One or two larvae will remain on the caterpillar to serve as the “mind controllers” to force it to defend the larvae on the nearby plant against anything that goes near them. Although it makes one wonder, how well can a partially-eaten caterpillar fight?


Transformando animales en zombies: la avispa esmeralda. (Accessed on 5th April, 2010)

Animal Photo Album. (Accessed on 5th April, 2010)

Do Parasites Rule the World? By Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, From the August 2000 issue; published online August 1, 2000. (Accessed on 5th April, 2010)

Zombie Animals and the Parasites that Control Them, (Accessed on 5th April, 2010)

Six Horrifying Parasites. By Alex in Animal, Medicine, Mentalfloss, Science & Tech on Aug 21, 2006 at 6:31 am (Accessed on 5th April, 2010)

On the Occurence of Carcinus Maenas (Linnaeus) and its Parasite Sacculina Carcini Thompson in Burma, with Notes on the Transport of Crabs to new Localities by H. BOSCHMA, Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie, Leiden. (Accessed on 5th April, 2010)

Neuromodulation of the escape behavior of the cockroach Periplaneta americana  by the venom of the parasitic wasp Ampulex compressa. By K. Fouad, F. Libersat, W. Rathmayer, Volume 178, Number 1 / January, 1996. 93-96.

Effects of Glyptapanteles liparidis (Hym.: Braconidae) Parasitism, Polydnavirus, and Venom on Development of Microsporidia-Infected and Uninfected Lymantria dispar (Lep.: Lymantriidae) Larvae. By Gernot Hoch and Axel Schopf. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, Volume 77, Issue 1, January 2001.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *