Just in case the world doesn’t seem enough like a horror movie at the moment, let us introduce the concept of zombie caterpillars.
In rural Lancashire, wildlife experts have reported that the furry insects are being infected by a savage virus that is making them sacrifice themselves, and then explode, allowing the microorganism to escape and claim another victim.
The report from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust was prompted after Dr Chris Miller, who works in the Manchester and North Merseyside branch, started finding corpses at the top of branches and small bushes.
Or more accurately, the skin shells of corpses, that had burst open after death.
Dr Miller said: “I was carrying out a large heath butterfly survey on Winmarleigh Moss and noticed a caterpillar hanging from the end of a branch of a small bush. Later on I saw another one hanging from a tall blade of grass both were dead but otherwise intact.
“Whilst checking some other branches I noticed small scraps of caterpillar skin on a couple of branches suggesting the two I had seen where not the only ones to be affected. It’s pretty gruesome when you think about it.”
Researchers believe that this is a case of a “baculovirus”, which is a virus that causes infected specimens to respond to light, forcing them to climb higher from their usual habitat in undergrowth.
When they climb to these more dangerous places they then die and the ‘baculovirus’ can transfer to other animals below.
Isn’t nature beautiful?