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Posted at 02:42 PM ET, 10/31/2011

Happy Halloween? Mind-controlling zombie parasites in D.C.


Not pictured: Parasites (Gene Page - AP)
Just in time for Halloween, a story about the District’s zombie flies — really — has hit the airwaves.

NPR reports that earlier this year, millions of flies in Washington D.C. were attacked by a mind-controlling fungus that essentially turned them into zombies.

“It basically zombie-izes them. In other words, it manipulates their behavior,”said Mike Raupp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland. “]The fly] moves to a high point, let’s say the tip of a blade of grass.”

The fly then dies on the blade in question, and more of the mind-control parasites erupt from its body. But — and you knew this part of the story was coming — it’s not just flies at risk of mind control.

There’s a parasite called toxoplasma gondii that makes rats attracted to the scent of cats. There are tales of hairworms exploding out of cricket bodies once the worms reach maturity within their host. And National Geographic details Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani , a mind-control fungi which has the ability to take over an ant’s brain and kill it once the insect moves to a fungi-friendly area. (For even more on this topic, there’s a Parasitic Mind Control Facebook page. Who knew?)

Are humans next? Research isn’t anywhere near conclusive — but never say never.

“If you take the world of parasites broadly, we don’t know the half of it yet,” said Janice Moore, a professor at Colorado State University.

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By  |  02:42 PM ET, 10/31/2011

 
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