5 Disturbing Ways Insects Can 'Hack' Nature

#2. Vesparum Burrows into and Manually Steers Wasps Around Like Little Airplanes

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

At least the wasps seem to be locked into a firm karmic payback system. For every living being they horrifyingly hijack, something else body-jacks them. For example, when European paper wasps run into the Xenos vesparum bug, they abandon their entire society and live out the rest of their lives alone, as slaves to a malevolent entity that will use them as both home and transport vessel. Basically, think Starship Enterprise, only manned by a single crew member, living, and, of course, a wasp. This analogy got away from us a little, we admit. But in our defense, we were just a little bit terror-hypnotized by this:

Via Hurbert Polacek
Hubert Polacek, the man who took this photo, has balls the size of planets.

X. Vesparum hops on passing wasps and burrows into their abdomen. Once inside, these "taken" insects abandon their caste, their very genetic programming, and become antisocial loners. The parasite grows in size until at some pre-appointed time, all the infected wasps converge at once. How they all know where to go, what time, and exactly how X. vesparum manages to command the wasp to go there is a mystery. X-Men-like psychic powers is our best guess (our best guesses aren't usually very good). Regardless, everyone pulls up in their tricked-out, low-riding wasp ride and begin the mating process. The males hop out of their whips (which soon die because of the gaping hole in their sides) and begin mounting the ladies. The females never leave their victim-ships; they just waggle their genitals out of the hole they tore in their living vehicle's body and get to boning. Ha ha, ain't that just like a lady, fellas?*

*We exclusively know terrifying, terrifying women.

Beani et al./Animal Behaviour via Wired
This is what porn looks like in hell.

When the deed is done, the females command their zombie steeds to head out and fatten up. These possessed wasps, freshly laid and feelin' pretty, decide they should be treated like the queens they feel they are inside. Deep inside. Where the parasite lives. So they fly off to a queen site and spend the winter sleeping next to other queens. Then, come spring, they head out to deposit more mind-controlling parasite larva under leaves. Or they just dump a load of them in their home nest, if they're feeling lazy. And they probably are, since living in a constant sci-fi horror movie seems pretty exhausting.

#1. Ichneumon Wasp Create Artificial Riots to Conceal Their Heists


Many creatures, like that aforementioned spoiled Joffrey of the insect world, the gall wasp, try to sucker ants into protecting them. The caterpillar of the alcon blue butterfly does the same: By tricking ants into thinking they're ant larvae, the alcon gains the protection of an entire hive of fanatic soldiers. Which means these larvae must be in the safest nursery ever. What kind of lunatic bug would be willing to fight their way into the heart of a veritable army base to get at these grubs?

The Ichneumon wasp: The Joker to the insect world's Gotham City.

Via YouTube
Minus the ridiculous nurse disguise.

The wasp needs the alcon caterpillars to lay its eggs in. But it faces two problems in doing this: First, it has to find out which anthills have the caterpillars. Second, it has to get to its squishy victims. Luckily, Ichneumon wasps have no trouble sniffing out the alcons, which is pretty impressive when you consider that these caterpillars make their literal living by smelling just like ant larvae. If the ants themselves could tell the difference, they'd tear the alcon apart. But Ichneumon wasps pass the larval Pepsi Challenge with flying colors.

Next, Ichneumon has to penetrate what is perhaps the greatest fortress in the insect world. Sure, the wasp is bigger than a single ant, but it's outnumbered, underground, and on the ant's home turf. Plus, its target is being kept in the nursery, arguably the most well-guarded room in the whole hive. It's like Ocean's Eleven for insects. How do you slip past hundreds of ants and then keep them occupied long enough to molest a few caterpillars? With an ingenious plan, a bit of chemical warfare, and big, waspy balls.

The alcon isn't the only one that can manipulate ants. In that video, you can see the Ichneumon wasp charge into the hill and immediately start getting its ass handed to it. But then it sprays a special pheromone that makes the ants go kill-crazy. The confused ants stop attacking the wasp entirely and turn on each other: It's the ant Rage Virus. Under the cover of this riot, the Ichneumon does its terrible business. By implanting its own larva inside the alcon, it, too, tricks the ants into protecting its brood. Eventually they both hatch -- the un-implanted caterpillars turn into butterflies, and the implanted turn into wasps -- and ditch their foster parents. Presumably while giving the finger to the whole colony on the way out.

Man, look how many wasps are on this list. We don't want to say anything controversial here, but it sure sounds like wasps might be kinda dicks, huh?

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