Cordyceps is a genus of fungi that multiplies by spreading its spores just like other types of fungi do, but the interesting plot twist here is that Cordyceps’ spores are parasitic; they turn their insect host into a mindless zombie that will do all the fungi’s dirty work to help it reproduce.
After a single Cordyceps spore lands on a viable insect host, it floods the insect’s brain with chemicals that alter its typical behavior. The mind-controlled insect then searches for a bright and humid place to live the rest of its days, and soon enough, it dies as Cordyceps grows from its body and repeats the cycle of spreading more spores to control other insects.
Cordyceps’ gruesome nature has been known to knock out entire ant colonies, but it doesn’t stop at just ants. Other insects, including beetles, butterflies, and wasps, are also at risk of being infected; even various arthropods can be manipulated to do Cordyceps’ bidding.
Cordyceps can be found in forests all over the world, and there are more than 400 known species in the genus. Yikes!