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Natural World

'Zombie virus' causes caterpillars to explode

August 4, 2017 | Comment icon 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.

Source: Telegraph | Comments (15)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by XenoFish 5 years ago
Kind of a 'last of us' zombie apocalypse.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Sundew 5 years ago
I had heard once that butterfly populations wax and wane do to heavy parasite loads, that when they get too numerous things like this reduce their numbers. Supposedly this also happens with the parasitic fungi in the tropics which keep various insect specie's populations from exploding. 
Comment icon #8 Posted by BeastieRunner 5 years ago
Nice word play, mate.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Nzo 5 years ago
I dont think the public beach would be a very hospitable place to visit if this were to happen all of a sudden.  
Comment icon #10 Posted by paperdyer 5 years ago
I'm sure some country is working on that right now.  Or maybe a Pharma company.  They'll release the virus after they have a vaccine.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Boozemonkey 5 years ago
Its the beginning of the end....for butterflies, they're acting out their own 'walking dead' as we speak. I wonder who is Rick?...
Comment icon #12 Posted by Crystal Rose 5 years ago
Hmm seems odd, since this is naturally occurring, I suppose there is resistance to these diseases?
Comment icon #13 Posted by godnodog 5 years ago
There are fungus that do this but to ants
Comment icon #14 Posted by Matt221 5 years ago
The last caterpillar I liked tasted like a butterfly before its done
Comment icon #15 Posted by Mr.United_Nations 5 years ago
Well more of a "day of the Triffids"

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