Ladybug Zombies

Wasps inject their larvae into ladybug abdomens, where they feast on the bugs’ insides.

Cristina Luiggi
Oct 31, 2011

A ladybug with a parasitic wasp's cocoon between its legs. NUTMEG66 / FLICKR

The parasitic wasp, Dinocampus coccinellae, infects the beloved garden beetle, the ladybug, in a gruesome scene that could fit right into one of the Alien movies. First, the wasp injects a single egg into the ladybug’s abdomen. Upon hatching, the larva eats away at the ladybug’s tissues for approximately three weeks, at which point it paralyzes the ladybug by severing the nerves to its legs and digs its way out into the world. Remarkably, the ladybug remains alive after this, remaining immobilized as the larva spins a cocoon between its legs.

According to a study published online on June 22 in the journal of the Royal Society, Biology Letters, it’s in the wasp’s best interest to keep the ladybug alive in this zombie-like state for as long as possible. The researchers found that while the...

(This Halloween Nutshell was originally posted as an item in our behavior brief from June 30, 2011).