Mind Control

I love the feeling of seeing some strange thing I’ve never seen before and knowing just what’s going on.  So get this.  A few minutes ago I went out to pick a sprig of goldenrod to feed one of my various bugs in jars, and there was an ant biting onto the tip of one of the leaves.

My mind immediately jumped to what I wrote on page 110 of my book:

If you find an ant with its mandibles clamped to the top of a blade of grass, it is likely a victim of the lancet liver fluke (Dicrocoeliidae: Dicrocoelium dendriticum).  This is just one step in the flatworm’s complex life cycle.  A grazing mammal accidentally eats the ant, and the worms mature in its liver. Their eggs are excreted, then ingested by a snail that feeds on the mammal’s droppings.  They hatch and develop into juveniles in the snail’s digestive tract, then become encysted and excreted. When an ant feeding on the snail’s slime trail swallows a cyst, most of the worms mature in its gut, but one takes control of its nerves.  The ant is compelled to climb up and bite onto the top of a plant every night, from dusk to dawn, until a mammal comes along and swallows it.

So, if that is in fact what’s going on here, the ant should go back to its everyday worker ant life in the morning.  We shall see…

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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2 Responses to Mind Control

  1. Pingback: Mind Control, Part 2 | BugTracks

  2. Pingback: Camouflaged Looper | BugTracks

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