A new terrifying species of parasitic wasp that turns its victims into suicidal zombies has been discovered in the Amazon.
The nightmare virus turns spiders into defenseless drones that abandon their own colonies to do what the wasp asks, before its larvae eat them alive.
The macabre discovery – made in Ecuador – was discovered by scientists from the University of British Columbia in Canada.
They say the wasp's behavior is a particularly "hardcore" form of hijacking, which involves handling an animal.
After leaving their homes, spiders are forced to weave a special cocoon for the wasp larvae that will hatch and eat the spider. The results were published in Ecological Entomology.
"Wasps manipulating the behavior of spiders have already been observed, but not at such a complex level," said Philippe Fernandez-Fournier of the Zoology Department of UBC.
"Not only does this wasp target a species of social spider, but it makes her leave her colony, which she rarely does."
The parasitic wasp targets a spider called Anelosimus eximius, known to live in large colonies and cooperate with others to capture prey and rear their young.
The researchers noticed that some of the spiders were infected with a parasitic larva and that they were seen moving away from their colonies to weave closed canvases.
"It was very strange because they do not do it normally, so I started taking notes," Fernandez-Fournier said.
It was then that stunned scientists noticed that the larvae belonged to an unknown species of Zatypota wasp.
"These wasps are very elegant and graceful," said Samantha Straus, co-author of the study and PhD student at the Zoology Department of OBC.
"But then, they do the most brutal thing."
A female wasp first deposits an egg on the abdomen of a spider, which hatches and begins to feed on the hemolymph resembling spider blood while magnifying and slowly taking the body of his host.
Then, the spider leaves its colony to create a cocoon for the larva – before being completely devoured by the young wasps who then enter the protective cocoon and come out fully cultivated 10 days later.
"This behavior change is so difficult," said Straus.