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Ant-Decapitating Flies Found In Glendale

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This is the stuff nightmares are made of. Researchers at the Natural History Museum have recently discovered in Glendale flies that decapitate ants.

These ant-decapitating flies (a.k.a. Pseudacteon and ADFs for short) lay their eggs into unsuspecting ants, and then it gets worse. According to the Natural History Museum blog:

As the larva develops it migrates into the head capsule and molts a number of times. Through this entire process the ant behaves normally. However, just before pupation, the maggot begins to consume the tissue inside the ant's head, which causes the ant to act oddly, and soon after, to expire. The head falls off and the mouth parts are pushed out, so the oral cavity is clear. As the larva pupates, the adult fly emerges from the now-clear oral cavity of the ant. How's that for an alien ant birth?

These ADFs are part of a family of phorid flies, that are also known as humpbacked flies, and there are an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 species of them. This one just so happens to do some parasitic-type of behavior. Although there have been recorded cases of ADFs in L.A. in the past, they're becoming rare to find here (and are more common in countries like Costa Rica and Brazil). The ADFs target our native ants, but the strong Argentine ant has been pushing out our native ones, thus there are less ant bodies they can host on.

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This discovery was made through a program the museum launched, called BioSCAN, which has the mission of "exploring diversity" in L.A., according to KPCC. Some of the organizers had set up a trap in a Glendale resident's backyard and discovered the ADFs.

And for peace of mind: no, these flies can't lay eggs in human heads.