Caterpillars are being targeted and killed by a bug that turns them into “exploding zombies,” a wildlife expert recently announced.
The baculovirus drives caterpillars on a “death march” to the tops of plants after which, when it dies, the virus bursts out to prey on other victims.
Dr. Chris Miller of Wildlife Trust described the incident as “gruesome – like a zombie horror film.”
Miller first noticed a caterpillar hanging from the end of a small, bush branch, and then came across another one hanging from a blade of grass.
He said both were deceased but otherwise intact. Miller also noticed some pieces of caterpillar skin on other branches he examined.
He said research is showing that the baculovirus affects the way the “zombie” insects respond to light, forcing them to climb up to higher and more dangerous places. But, once they get there, they die.
It is extremely unusual to see caterpillars high up because they can be eaten by birds.
“This is a caterpillar of the oak eggar moth which eats heather and bilberry, so it is normally hidden in the undergrowth, not at the top of plants.” explained Miller.
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