The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has shared information on a hair-like parasite capable of turning insects into zombies.
Known as horsehair worms, the FWS explained that the creatures are “easily overlooked, mistaken for a plant vine, or trash, or even horse hairs (hence the name.)”
“They’re called worms, but are nothing like your average earthworm,” the FWS added.
They lay eggs that are consumed, often accidentally, by insects ranging from grasshoppers to cockroaches. The eggs hatch within the host, and the worm continues to grow inside it. Eventually, the horsehair worm will take control of the insect’s body.
The insect will act as a zombie, unable to control its own movements as the worm attempts to maneuver the host towards a body of water.
“Unable to stop itself, the host cricket or grasshopper will go jump into a pool! Like a ZOMBIE!” the FWS wrote. “Then, the now adult horsehair worm will burst out of the insect’s abdomen, a la the chestburster in Alien, and start over.”
“Shockingly, the insect itself probably doesn’t die from this, though it’s in a pretty good position to make a tasty snack for a fish,” the FWS wrote.
Horsehair worms can have a length of anywhere between 2 and 14 inches and live in freshwater ecosystems according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service.
Importantly, horsehair worms pose no threat and “are harmless to humans and pets” according to the FWS.
Considering that the life of the horsehair worm is mainly spent within the host insect, seeing one is a rare opportunity, according to the post. (RELATED: Lyme Disease-Bearing Ticks Spreading Across The Midwest, Study Says)