Parasitic Fungus Acts Helps Control Insect Population

Parasitic Fungus Acts Helps Control Insect Population

The jungles of South America are full of strange and fascinating creatures. Many species of insects inhabit the jungle floor and trees. But how does Mother Nature keep any one species from increasing its population to the point that it has an advantage over the other species and becomes the boss in this delicate ecosystem? She uses a stealthy assassin that works as a population controller. The larger a group of insects get, the more likely they are to be targeted and cut back down to size. Mother Nature’s chosen assassin is the parasitic fungus known as Cordyceps. And there are literally thousands of different types of this fungus, each one specializing in the extermination of a specific insect species. No one pulls one over on Mother Nature.

The Cordyceps kills insects using its spores to burrow into and infiltrate an insects’ body and mind. The spore gains control of both the insects motor function as well as its brain. After being infected the insect for example a bullet ant becomes like a zombie, acting disoriented under the influence of the fungi. The fungi directs the ant to climb higher up the tree it inhabits towards where the other healthy ants congregate. When the ant stops it clamps its mandibles on the stem to anchor itself for the fungi’s emergence. The fungi slowly bursts from the ants head like a vine and eventually releases a mass of spores from the tip, which will hopefully land on some other poor ants. I’d say this is an excellent incentive for practicing population control. Mother Nature doesn’t mess around…

What do you think of the jungle’s secret assassin squad? Can you imagine if something like this existed for humans?

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Smithereen Pest Management provides IPM pest services to residential and commercial clients in Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri.
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