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parasitic fungus

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Boy, is this stuff inspiring.  A few weeks ago I was watching some nature program and they were showing how this incredible parasitic fungus infects these leaves in the jungle that ants eat.  The infected ant will head back to it’s colony in the treetops and then the zombie-like illness kicks in.  The fungus takes hold of the ant’s brain and forces it to wander away from the colony, back down to the lower leaves.  The ant is in this fugue state shuffling along searching for these low lying leaves, once it gets to the leaf it bites it with this death-grip chomp and drops dead.  This allows the fungus do it’s thing and make sure it will infect more leaves and thus more ants.

Parasitic fungi isn’t exclusive to ants.  There are lots of types and many of them are downright stunning to look at as they sprout out of their host’s body.   I was literally mesmerized by the beauty and the horror of these parasites.  I knew I’d have to do a comic about it! When I sat down tonight I had an entirely different comic in mind (with GingerDead groaning for leaves instead of brains and an accompanying haiku), but the saying popped into my head and when I paired it with a sketch… well it just screamed greeting card to me so I switched gears.  This one will definitely be a new addition to the line in a couple of week’s time.

Oh, I should share some photos and articles in case you want to learn more!

‘ZOMBIE ANTS” controlled by parasitic fungus for 48m years

Zombie Ant with head bursting fungus:

Mind-controlling parasite dates back millions of years

Here’s some images on other insects and even plants!

Fungal Parasites of Plants

Okay that’s enough homage to the creepy wonderful parasites.  I need to get back to making last minute jewelry and figuring out the best way to pack these dolls.  I leave for ART ROCK / West Palm Beach on Friday and I still have a bunch to do! I don’t get back til Sunday or Monday and I’ll have some graphic projects piled up by then so I doubt I’ll be able to squeeze in a comic in time for Wednesday’s update.   If not, I’ll see you the following week.

Btw -I made a new doll.  Her name is  Basha.  You can read about her and see more pictures here.  She has a little hand sewn quirky hat.  Maybe she’s hiding awesome fungus beneath it!  🙂

13 Responses to “parasitic fungus”

  1. Chance Says:

    Paul Stamets gave a great TED talk on fungi, including how he raised a unique non-sporulating form of entomopathogenic fungus, similar to the mushrooms above, that would be attractive enough to termites to infect the entire colony. The section on pollution cleanup was pretty awesome too. Fungus is neat stuff!

  2. Chance Says:


  3. Seraphine Says:

    last year, i planted a peach tree. i’ve always wanted my won peach tree. but i noticed a few weeks ago that many of the leaves were curled and malformed. i took some into the nursery and was told the problem was a fungus infection– from the constant and heavy rains we got here in california during march. all i had to do was wait until some new growth showed, and then i was advised to cut off all the fungus-infected leaves.
    there is a happy ending: my tree looks pretty good now. and and and i have peaches! i counted 54 of them. not too bad for a first year crop. i was expecting three or four.

    peaches in his hair
    juice dripping onto his face
    his sticky kisses

    when he falls asleep
    some yellowjackets gather
    love those bee-sting lips

  4. Seraphine Says:

    though cheese is a mold
    gingerdead isn’t cheesy
    (the good kind of mold)

    i’ve heard not all molds are bad. fungi are an essential part of the ecosystem.

  5. calan Says:

    wow, that’s a lot of peaches seraphine! we were trying to grow a clementine tree at my mom’s but it’s never bore fruit. the lopers eat all the leaves off and it’s tiny and frail. people insist we should crush the lopers but they have these cute little faces and i just couldn’t. we shake them off and ask nicely that they don’t return but 10 mins later…munch munch munch. on the plus side jim’s brother has an avocado tree that is incredible. i love fl avocados! they are buttery. mmm!

  6. calan Says:

    incidentally, my favorite part of those science articles was the bit at the end of one that said that all life forms have at least one form of parasite that they are host to. it does seem essential. it also makes me wonder if i have enough ice. 😛

  7. Seraphine Says:

    one definition of parasite: family [‘fam-i-ly]; see also grubbers

    i don’t know what a loper is. i googled it, found a definition of “one who lopes.” there are also several loper family websites. so yes, if a loper is some kind of cute-faced miniature horse, don’t kill it please. on the other hand, if it is some sort of parasitic melon (cantelope?) attacking your clementines, by all means smash them to smithereens.

  8. Matthew Says:

    I love watching shows on ants. They have so many species and specializations. Thank creation they are so small. I heard about mind controlling parasites about 10 years ago and was fascinated. So many possibilities from something like that. I can just imagine what the government will do when we perfect nano tech. I imagine brain controlling machines that will have similar effects. Scary stuff. I love the new art doll. So much so i just had to get her 🙂

    as movement begins
    fear and confusion pervades
    your brain but my will

  9. calan Says:

    thanks matthew!! i was just packing the dolls up for my show in w palm beach. i think she’s thrilled not to have to make the journey and be pawed at all day. she’d way rather head to your house i’m sure. i’ll hit the post office on the way out of town. 🙂

  10. calan Says:

    seraphine – i spelled it wrong! it’s lopper but they pronounce it here low-per so i thought loper would be the spelling. They are pretty damn big grasshopper things with cute faces that look at you and are all sorts of autumn colors. as babies they are black and yellow.

    here’s a pic of a grown up lopper – http://sumter.ifas.ufl.edu/images/lopper%20grasshopper.JPG

    the young ones look like this


    and are usually in bunches destroying your graden with their little chompy mouths. people do things like drown them and crush them. eeeep. we’re researching organic non lethal ways to deter them.

  11. Amanda Says:

    itchy twitchy squirm
    you can scratch but it still burns
    don’t forget your cream

    Dealing with my own parasitic fungus yay athletes foot. Apparently people stopped wearing socks to try on shoes at the stores so when I brought home my new pair last week I bought more than i bargained for.
    But all fungus is pretty in its own way and Ringworm is kinda beautiful in a deadly-if-not-treated way. Red rosettes all over the body that spread in size and arent always round. Makes people look kinda like blotchy red leopads minus the fur.
    I hate those nasty hoppers they take over this time of year and eat my peppers. I hope it gives them tummy aches.

  12. Seraphine Says:

    loppers look like grasshoppers. i’ve never heard them called loppers before, maybe it is a southern term.
    the biggest pests in my garden are slugs and snails. escargo. snails are cute, just like your loppers. slugs are not so cute.
    i’ve had people tell me to set out a bowl of beer, that the slugs will get in the bowl and drown.
    i try to control them with sluggo. it says on the box that sluggo is safe for birds and vegetables.
    sometimes when i find snails, i toss them into the street. it feels like murder, but i wouldn’t have a garden if i just let them be.

    amanda: i had ringworm once as a child. i think i got it from a cat. most shoe stores won’t let you try on shoes without socks, so i wouldn’t go back to that store again. yuk. it’s the equivalent of a dinner buffet without a sneeze guard. if somebody sneezes on the salad, ask for a refund.

    matthew: wear some tin foil on your head. ya, people will think you are crazy, but it holds in the heat and heat kills those nano bugs that are trying to control your mind.

    if you need to, fashion the foil into a helmet and tell people you are going to a renaissance fair. carry a sword. say things like “aye goode madame, ‘neath my silvery cap the entyre earthe doth tarry so come thee hither and dance ere time steals thine generous beauty from thee.”

    don’t put cooling fans in your ears.

  13. Social parasites are as old as social organisation itself. | DIO real skills Says:

    […] Cycle repeats Ant killed my brain controlling parasitic fungus. Ophiocordyceps unilateralis http://gingerdead.com/2011/05/04/parasitic-fungus/ […]

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