There tons or parasites that do awful, bizarre things to their hosts, and I will likely cover the most horrifying of them here at some point, but there is one from Costa Rica (home of the Human Bot Fly) that sets the high bar for being weird, not to mention creepy to the point of appearing supernatural.
For starters, this whole situation is full of terror; everyone but entomologists and Navy SEALs are afraid of spiders on some level, and with good reason; they have been poisoning things to death since before there was vertebrate life on earth. Evolution baked in a natural fear of them because once upon a time, they were big enough to eat your cat, and today a good number of them can kill you or cause limbs to rot off. Wasps are high on the list of shit people don’t want to screw with as well; anyone with an allergy to insect stings sees them as flying murder bugs with a hypodermic needle full of cyanide on their butt, and to the rest of us, they are like a bee that is pissed off all the time. Add to that the words “parasite” and “zombie”, and you have just covered 90% of the human race’s nightmares that don’t involve being nude and crowds.
There are a ton of wasps that are well known for pinning down spiders, paralyzing them, and then planting her babies in them; In fact, that is what inspired Dan O’Bannon to devise the overly-complicated and horrible life cycle of the alien
. In most cases, though, the spider remains paralyzed while the stinger-fetus feeds on it, no doubt to the tune of terrified spider screams; silent screams, because it’s paralyzed (and also, I don’t know is spiders can scream, or make any noise for that matter.)
In the case of Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga
, things are a bit different. The mom wasp lands on a spider, in this case, it’s always an orb weaver (those giant garden spiders with the giant webs, that can grow as big as a man’s hand in Australia) and paralyzes it, then lays her egg. This is where all resemblance to the “regular” monster-spider-murdering wasps ends and the part where it sounds like it was dreamed up by a sci-fi writer begins.
The wasp larva clings to the spider, staying out of its way and only occasionally poking a small hole in its abdomen to feed on the spider’s sweet sweet spider juices. The spider, apparently oblivious to the baby monster living on its but in much the same way we can walk around with a piece of spinach stuck to our teeth for hours without realizing it, goes about its business making webs and draining bugs of their sweet sweet juices. This creepy invertebrate host/parasitic-papoose relationship continues for a week or two, when suddenly the baby monster injects a fluid into its unwitting Au pair.
Suddenly, the spider stops making its normal arachnid track housing from the same blueprint garden spiders have been using for eons and builds a new pocket-shaped web, the likes of which never before occurred in its genetic history, so there is no precedent for it, aside from the influence of the waspy headcrab controlling its actions.
This would be like some weird animal, let’s say a naked molerat, because they are bizarre, laying its baby on you, the baby playing vampire with you for a work week or two, then injecting you with a fluid that somehow makes you build a shed for it to live in in your back yard, despite the fact that the only wood working you ever did was making pinewood derbies.
When the new house is complete, the larva shows us that in nature, the Jeffery Dahmers of the world are actually in the majority, and kills the spider slurps on her spidery goo, crawls into the web she (the spider) built for the tiny asshole, and then weaves a cocoon and sleeps in it until it is all growed up. Wait a second; the wasp can spin a cocoon? Why the hell does it even bother with the spider? Are “piggyback rides” and “being a dick” vitamins I haven’t heard of? What does the wasp get out of this aside from sick pleasure?
I guess it just goes to show you that parasites and parasitoids exist to make evolutionists to momentarily consider the existence of intelligent design, before concluding that sometimes, evolution isn’t about what’s best, it’s about what survived. I can sum that up as fact in two words; Suri Cruise.
If the larva is removed, the spider goes ahead and makes the modified web; so imagine your neighbor saw you busily gathering materials for the shed and whacked the molerat off with a shovel; you would finish building it. The chemical the larva injects is apparently like a very specific LSD that not only commands you to build, but also includes the white paper of the shed’s construction as a built-in hallucination. In these cases, since there is no murder-grub to murder-murder the spider, it eventually regains control of its will and probably cries itself to sleep for the rest of its life.
With 8 eyes, that is a shitload of tears…
It takes a couple of days, but the spider eventually regains control of all of its faculties and goes back to making normal spider webs, which is not very exciting, but it beats the shit out of being killed and eaten.
On the flip side, that wasp is amazingly ballsy. Think about what the spider represents; they are pretty huge as spiders go (North American garden spiders easily reach 3 or four inch leg spans) and they are designed to catch flying insects. That’s like humans only being able to deliver babies by strafing anti-aircraft guns in an airplane.
Be happy that we don’t have mind control molerats (yet), and if your neighbor suddenly starts building a shed, you might want to go over with a shovel and whack him just in case.
(Although probably not.)