So About a month and a half ago I posted about a fungus that turns an ant into a zombie. It slowly grows inside the ant and takes over its brain function once its ready to send out spores driving it to climb higher and higher for better spore spreading. At which point it makes the ant clamp down on a leaf and finally the ant dies.
Scary? Well my friends and neighbors much the way we cannot leave things alone someone is breeding this fungus! Yes some moron believes that he can create a green pesticide from the stuff. Well, if that doesn't beat all. Just know that if I begin to grow a stalk from my head and climb up a tree.....shoot me...burn the body and get away as fast as you can.
And people will say...."Dan, aren't you overreacting?" sure, i am overreacting. Nothing bad has ever happened when we messed with mother nature. Bacteria are not getting resistant to our medicines, the gypsy moth caterpillar nightmare wasn't some lame brain attempt at cheap silk production....yeah I am overreacting.
Well ladies and gents perhaps the zombie apocalypse will happen but instead of us looking for flesh to eat we will all be driven by our half fungus brain to find a good place to lay down spores. So glad our homes will be rid of ants in the meant-time.
Paul Stamets is a mycologist with a little mad scientist thrown in. When his house was attacked by carpenter ants years ago, he sought an out-of-the-box solution from the natural world. He wasn’t content to simply poison them with conventional pesticides. Instead, he turned them into zombies.
What Stamets used was a mushroom from the cordyceps family. This is a family of virulent parasitic fungi that attack insects, each species of fungus attacking only one species of insect. In the case of the fungus that attacks ants, the fungus infects the body of the ant and, when it is ready to produce a mushroom moves into the ant’s brain. Once there, the fungus takes over the ant’s motor functions, causing it to climb higher where the spores can spread farther. Then the fungus makes the ant hold on tightly to a leaf or branch while the fungus kills the ant. Some days later, a mushroom emerges from the ant, spreading spores to start the whole process over.
Once Stamets found the right species of fungus, he tried to spread it to the ants, but found that it went to spore too quickly. As the fungus and the ant have been co-evolving for millennia, the carpenter ants immediately recognized the scent of the spores and gave them a wide berth. After some culturing, Stamets was able to develop a pre-sporulating strain of the fungus and grew it onto some rice. He then put the rice in the path of the ants, where they promptly consumed it with abandon. A few days later, he was ant-free. The best part is that each ant who ate the tainted rice produced a mushroom that produced millions of spores. Future ants who might consider invading the structure will smell the spores and avoid the house. This can provide years of protection.
This led Stamets on the path to using this as a natural, and possibly superior, alternative to conventional pest control. Thus far, the few sound bytes he has produced on the subject have been rather guarded on details, awaiting his patent. All he has said is that his method will kill anything with a queen and continue to repel or kill for 20 years.
Recently Stamets announced that he had received two patents on his fungal pest control solution. I know that I, personally, can’t wait until there are more details available on how this is going to work. How is it applied, spores or mycelium? Is it dependent on finding and wiping out an existing infestation? Is it something else entirely? They also mentioned in the release that they had a treatment for mosquitoes as well. Personally I find that very exciting. Hopefully this product will come to market soon!"