Entomophthora muscae: Entomophthora translates from the Greek as “Entomo” insect, “phthor” destroyer. The second part of the name “muscae” means Fly.
There is no such animal as a Marzipan Fly.
Welcome to the extraordinary world of Fungi.
The animal in the picture above is the handsome and formidable Yellow Dung Fly an animal that some ladies consider to be the “Robert De Niro” of Flies and it is sad to see it in such dire straits.
But this isn’t a post about an animal.
The pathogenic fungus that is attacking this animal is called Entomophthora muscae and this is a post about Fungi.
I am a bit sorry that the first time that a fungi appears on this blog it should be in the form of a pathogen and I shall make my very next post about the toadstool house that Big Ears lives in. I love fungi, I just haven’t seen a lot of it about recently but back to the insect destroyer.
The fungus, Entomophthora muscae, settles on the fly’s body in the form of an airborne spore. The tiny threads that make up the body of the fungus (hyphae) enter the fly’s body and grow within, expanding the abdomen. The white marzipan stripes are actually spore bearing structures of the fungus called sporangia.
At the same time the fungus attacks the animals brain causing a change in behaviour which is called “summit disease”. This causes the animal to seek out a high point on a flower and then spread out it’s legs and stretch it’s wings in the posture seen in these photographs.
The Fungi also produces a glue which the animal will then use to stick itself to the flower or plant that it is on. It will then remain in this posture for days or even weeks until it dies.
By doing this the fungi ensures that the animal is in the best position to distribute the airborne spores when they are released.
Well it is diverse. Nature is very diverse.
Next I will show you a more visually attractive fungi and a very useful one.
3 thoughts on “The Insect Destroyer”
Wow – clever fungi! But what a gruesome end for the poor fly …
Thanks. It is awesome, a fungus that exerts mind control and turns it’s victims into zombies. Glad you liked the post 🙂
How can a fungus “take control” of the mind of an animal and “force” it to behave in a way that benefits the fungus – which we must assume possesses no consciousness? Do these flies tend to crawl to a high point when they die of more “natural” causes as well? If so then this fungus is merely accidentally benefitting from its own abitlity to bring about the death of the fly.
At any rate this is a fascinating subject and I thought I’d send you a link to another interesting article on this fungus that includes the results of the dissection of a fly that has been killed by it. Hope you enjoy it!