PUBLISHED ON October 24th, 2011
Zombies are the 21st-century equivalent of vampires, werewolves and mummies. While the latter have appeared in folklore for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, zombies are a relatively new craze. They first became popular in the late 1800s and have experienced a resurgence in the last decade and a half.
In the insect world, however, zombies have been around for much longer than that. Did you know that there are several pests that share some eerie characteristics with the undead? Luckily, none of these pests frequent homes in North America, so you probably won’t need to call your local pest control company for a zombie infestation. But in other areas of the world, where residential pest control is often lacking, these pests are no joke. Here’s a look at three real-life zombies in the pest world:
Theoretically, your local pest control company could potentially use the jewel wasp to eradicate your cockroach problem. How? By turning the cockroaches into zombies and leading them to their demise. This fascinating wasp can sting a cockroach twice – once in the abdomen and once in the brain – and essentially gain control over other insect. It can then lead the roaches to its nest and use their zombie bodies as hosts for its freshly lain wasp eggs. Creepy, right? Wasps get a bad rep, especially as a residential pest control problem, but turning cockroaches into zombies borders on public service.
The problem with zombies is that they just don’t stay dead. The same seems to be true of certain wolf spider species. Try flushing one down the drain or drowning it with the hose, and it will come right back to life a short time later, as if it were the walking dead. This is because a wolf spider can suspend life and enter a near-death state for up to 40 hours when submersed in water – only to wake up later, zombie-like, from its coma and continue going about its business.
Wolf spiders are rare in urban and suburban areas. When found, they are hard to capture, making them a nuisance for homeowners who attempt their own residential pest control without the help of a local pest control company.
Perhaps one of the creepiest zombie-like insects in the world, the weta bug is native to New Zealand and resembles a large cricket, with larger mandibles and sharper feet. These insects can grow as large as four inches in body length (eight inches including appendages). They have a nasty bite that can lead to painful bacterial infections and skin irritations.
What makes the weta zombie-like is its ability to survive in temperatures well below freezing by stopping its own heart and brain. A special protein in its blood then reanimates the weta when thawed out. That said, weta are generally not good targets for residential pest control because of their endangered status; they are considered an important part of New Zealand’s eco-system.
[ photo by: Scott.Symonds ]