- Group: Glyptapanteles sp.
This parasite has managed to get around quite well. It can be found in both Central & North America and even as far as New Zealand. Unlike other body-snatching parasites, the Glyptapanteles actually use their hosts as bodyguards rather than just feed on them. You should first know this is an endoparasitoid wasp that uses caterpillars as hosts for its eggs. A female wasp of this species will stick its oviposit into the caterpillar, which will then grow and feed like normal until roughly its 4th or 5th stage of development. Once it reaches this stage, around 80 fully grown larvae pop out of the caterpillar’s body to pupate. Yet at least one to two remain behind.
They are said to take hold of the caterpillar’s body/brain. The caterpillar then takes position near the cocoons of the pupae, will arch its back, and not move or feed again. It might spin silk here and there over the pupae but will thrash around violently if disturbed. Of course, this is essentially making a caterpillar into a forced bodyguard for larvae too small to last on their own. The caterpillar will soon die off due to not eating, but even when pretty much dead, it acts in defense against potential predators. These wasps evolutionary adopted this concept to stand a higher chance of fully maturing, and without it, mortality rates would be far higher.