Nov 20, 2008

Death by Horsehair Worm

What you're looking at below is a handful of adult horsehair worms. You'll see that they vary quite a bit in length and color, but all have the appearance of wriggling, coarse hairs or wire.

But it's not the adults that are so fascinating. It's their life cycle before reaching maturity that is the most intriguing.

Photo source: Texas A & M

The next time you see a beetle or a grasshopper floating dead in the water, don't assume it was a case of a simple drowning. In fact, in the case of the potato bug, more often than not it was murder (cue screechy stabbing noise...)

The young horsehair worm begins life as an egg that is ingested by a hapless insect. The egg then hatches, and the little worm grows inside its host in typical parasite fashion. But the worm doesn't stop there. No, it will settle for nothing less than the death of its host. And it does so by causing the host to drown itself, so that the matured worm(s) might burst forth into the water just in time to mate.

Wow, murder, betrayal, mating. This has all the hallmarks of a good soap opera.

Thanks for the horsehair worm, Rae.


Christopher Taylor said...

And here's a video of a horsehair worm in the process of evacuating from its cricket host.

niner said...

Gwaah! One day I will learn not to click links on here. Am I the only one feeling that, from this website alone, poor little insects don't have any luck/good karma/much of a chance at a healthy life in the world? It feels so cruel.

Maskdt said...

I'm glad that the majority of brain/behavior-controlling parasites affect the insect kingdom.

Denita TwoDragons said...

*goes pale* Guuhhh...*shudders*

...parasites. I. Hate. Parasites.

Bugs don't scare me. Slugs and snails? No problemo. Spiders don't creep me out either. Lizards and snakes? I don't even mind the poisonous kind, as long as they aren't in my house.

But get me anywhere near a parasite? Don't block the door or you might get trampled. GACK!


Kit said...

AAHHG! That... that actually has me feeling bad for the cricket! And completely freaked out. It was almost like watching Aliens for bugs!

Anonymous said...

Huh, so thats what they are. When I was a lil kid my grandma was cleaning out her Koi Pond and one of these wiggled out of the algea she scooped out onto the grass. It creeped me out to no end to see this long black Hair curling and wiggling. Gahhhhh!