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S.C.V. History
July 22
2000 - Historic Larinan house in Pico Canyon burns down [story]
Larinan house burning

Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Jan 24, 2016

DianneErskineHellrigelYes, zombies exist. There are creatures that roam around that are not in control of what they do. They have been taken over by others and are internally guided by them until death.

I can give you 10 examples of creatures that are commonly taken over, but I am sure there are even more. Below, you will hear the stories of the dark side of our world and proof that zombies exist beyond the realm of science fiction. Indeed, our planet is home to many of them.

Wasps are one of the “mad scientists” of the buggy world. They refuse to rear their own progeny, so they select unwitting creatures to be their nannies.

A favorite among the nannies are baby caterpillars. Wasps pump the unwitting baby caterpillar full of wasp eggs. The baby caterpillar becomes the host or “nanny zombie,” if you will. As the caterpillar becomes bigger, the parasite-wasp eggs grow, as well. Once the little wasps leave the host, the caterpillar provides them with protection and defense, as it is left with a sense of loyalty. Little does the caterpillar know, but adult wasps can feed on them, sucking them dry and leaving a dry, dead heap behind. So much for the loyalty of the caterpillar.

Parasitic wasp

Parasitic wasp

Wasps also lay eggs on spiders. The wasp larva will take over the mind of the host spider, commanding that a magnificent web be built so the wasp can continue to grow larger and larger. The larva is thus protected until it becomes a wasp. Clever wasps.

Wasps also inject venom into cockroaches, paralyzing the bug. The roach is then dragged to the lair of the wasp and injected with eggs. It lies there immobile until the larvae hatch. The larvae eat the roach from the inside out. Then they burst out of the host, which dies, and the evil process begins once again.

Honeybees are another example. Our poor honeybees have been suffering greatly in recent years from fungal infections and viral infections, causing devastation to hives across the country. As if this weren’t enough for the little creatures to endure, they, too, are subject to becoming zombies, thanks to the threat of being consumed from the inside out by grubs.

Parasitic fly

Parasitic fly

Flies implant worker bees with eggs. When these eggs hatch, the grubs feed on the zombie host until the bee flees the hive and dies. The young flies hatch out of the bee, and the circle of fly life begins again as they hunt down another unsuspecting honeybee to become the next zombie.

Even viruses have the ability to take over a host, control its habits and annihilate an entire community. This is the thing science fiction writers just love. The story is there; they can easily translate it to the human condition, and they have a bestseller or a blockbuster movie.

Honey bee, an unwitting host.

Honey bee, an unwitting host.

Here’s an example: crickets. Crickets are prone to getting STDs. Who knew? It’s true. But this STD is the worst possible kind imaginable. It is a virus that is sexually transmittable, and once a cricket is infected with the virus, it’s sexual appetite is insatiable. The cricket mates and mates and mates. The insect continues to pass the virus along to all of the crickets in the community. Both males and females are eventually rendered sterile, and the entire community dies.

Parasitic barnacle and mud crab.

Parasitic barnacle and mud crab.

Mud crabs can be physically invaded by barnacles. A female barnacle will invade the crab’s body and carve out a most humble abode. She will invite multiple males over for an orgy. The crab will lose its own desire to mate, and being completely controlled by the barnacle, it becomes nothing more than a habitat and host for the barnacle. Another zombie in the sand is born.

Having been bitten multiple times by South American fire ants, I have little sympathy for the creatures. However, they, too, are parasitized by fly larvae.

Once the fly lays eggs in the fire ant, the ant unwittingly carries on as if nothing has happened. It works on and on with the rest of the fire ant population until the flies are almost ready to emerge. The fire ant finds a place to rest while the larvae eat their brains and become pupa, and then they emerge as flies and begin the hunt for another victim.

The last gory bug story surrounds the takeover of the sowbug, more commonly known as the pill bug or roly-poly. There is a parasitic worm that invades the brains of the little pill bug, causing it to run directly toward invading starlings instead of rolling up in defense. The bugs are subsequently eaten by the birds. The parasitic worm has now found its home inside the gut of the bird, its preferred host.

So you see, zombies do exist, even in Santa Clarita. Don’t turn out the lights … and remember to sleep with one eye open.


Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.




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