WTF Fun Fact 13017 – The Dementor Wasp

The dementor wasp sounds like a character from Harry Potter. But somehow it’s much worse (mostly because it’s real). These wasps can turn their prey into “zombies” before eating them alive. Isn’t nature wonderful?

Dementor wasp tactics

The Ampulex dementor is actually named after the soul-sucking Harry Potter characters, so you know they must have made a big impression.

The wasps have a pretty unconventional and gruesome way of preparing their prey for mealtime. First, they inject venom into their favorite snacks, cockroaches. And while you might not have a lot of sympathy for roaches, they do die in a pretty awful way.

The venom from the dementor wasp leaves them without control over their own bodies. That usually has the effect of forcing them to run right into their tormentor’s nest so that they can be eaten alive. The World Wildlife Fund said it rendered the roaches “passive zombies” in the process.

How do roaches turn into zombies?

According to the Washington Post (cited below), the WWF report states:

“Cockroach wasp venom blocks receptors of the neurotransmitter octopamine, which is involved in the initiation of spontaneous movement. With this blocked, the cockroach is still capable of movement, but is unable to direct its own body. Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it.”

Sounds like the stuff of nightmares.

Luckily, the wasps seem confined to just one place in the world – Thailand – and are pretty recognizable with their red and black bodies (not that the venom is enough to turn any of us into a zombie).

What’s in a name?

The Post also described the dementor wasp naming process:

“The Museum für Naturkunde, a natural history museum in Berlin, asked 300 visitors to pick the wasp’s name from among four options: ‘Bicolor,’ after its red-black pattern; ‘Mon,’ after a local ethnic group where the wasp lives; ‘Plagiator,’ since it mimics, or ‘plagiarizes,’ ants; and ‘Dementor,’ described to visitors as ‘magical beings, which can consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims as an empty but functional body without personality and emotions.'”

Frankly, the other options were pretty lame, and we doubt anyone was surprised people chose the Harry Potter-themed name.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Say hello to the dementor wasp. It turns cockroaches into zombies” — Washington Post

Share this fact:  

Leave a Comment