Zombie horror fungus which kills insects and then grows out of their HEADS spotted in local forests

Captured in Baligród Forest District in the Bieszczady Mountains (south-eastern Poland), the hideous images show the moment the fungus bursts out of a wasp’s head. M. Scelina/ Lasy Państwowe/Twitter

This is the horrifying moment a ‘zombie horror’ fungus was photographed bursting out of a wasp’s head.

Captured in the Baligród Forest District in the Bieszczady Mountains (south-eastern Poland), the wasp was attacked by the rare fungus known as Ophiocordyceps ditmarii which then buried itself inside the insect’s body. 

The wasp was attacked by the rare fungus known as Ophiocordyceps ditmarii which then buried itself inside the insect’s body before erupting out of its head. M. Scelina/ Lasy Państwowe/Twitter

Posting on Twitter, the State Forests said: “Do you know a fungus that turns ants into ‘zombies’? 

“In Poland you can meet its no less interesting cousin. Ophiocordyceps ditmarii parasites on the hymenopteras [sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants - TFN] - it infects them, develops in the victim's body and after his death grows (e.g. from his head) to release spores.”

The Polish horror fungi is a cousin of the more widely recognised Ophiocordyceps unilateralis species, which can be found in tropical forests. CC BY SA-2.0

The Polish horror fungi is a cousin of the more widely recognised Ophiocordyceps unilateralis species, which can be found in tropical forests. 

To grow, it needs specific temperature and humidity.  The fungus acts like a parasite by infecting ants. 

Once it starts developing in the insect’s body, it alters its pheromones and the hosts behaviour.

Once the insect is attacked, the fungus begins to grow inside its body. When the insect dies it then grows out if its head. CC BY SA-3.0

The unfortunate ant will be forced to leave the anthill and travel further up the trees. 

There, it will die due to the fungus piercing its body while growing. 

The zombie fungus then develops fruiting bodies from the ant's head and releases its spores to reproduce.

Posting on Twitter, the State Forests said: “Do you know a fungus that turns ants into ‘zombies’? It infects them, develops in the victim's body and after his death grows (e.g. from his head) to release spores.” Lasy Państwowe/Twitter

Responding to a question on Twitter about how common it is to see the fungi in Poland, the State Forests said: “A lot of luck and a good eye. 

“It’s a rare fungus, small, not found on any particular soil, the way mycorrhizal [symbiotic – TFN], saprotrophic or parasitic fungi associated with plants are – it is hard to predict where the wasp will land.”