Nature & Environment
'Zombie virus' causes caterpillars to explode
By T.K. Randall
August 4, 2017 · 15 comments
The caterpillars are literally exploding. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Dan Parsons
A peculiar virus has been causing caterpillars in the UK to incinerate themselves in bright sunlight.
Known as the baculovirus, this predominantly fatal ailment overrides the insect's natural tendency to stay out of bright sunlight and forces them to climb out of the shade and up on to the top of plants.
Once there, they bake in the heat and literally explode - spreading the virus around even further.
"It's like a zombie horror film," said Dr Chris Miller. "I was carrying out a large heath butterfly survey on Winmarleigh Moss and noticed a caterpillar hanging from the end of a branch of a small bush."
"Later on I saw another one hanging from a tall blade of grass. Both were dead but otherwise intact."
"Whilst checking some other branches I noticed small scraps of caterpillar skin on a couple of branches suggesting the two I had seen were not the only ones to be affected."
Local wildlife authorities are now appealing to the public to report any additional cases.
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