New Crypt-Keeper Wasp Is Parasite That Bursts From Host’s Head

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The insect, native to the southeastern U.S., is named after the Egyptian god of evil and chaos—for good reason.

Scientists have discovered a new parasitic wasp species with a life cycle so diabolical, they named it after Set, the Egyptian god of evil and chaos.

Meet Euderus set, otherwise known as the crypt-keeper wasp.

Native to the southeastern United States, this species lays its egg inside the tiny, wooden chambers that another parasitic wasp species, the gall wasp (Bassettia pallida), carves out in sand live oak trees. These knobby protuberances, known as galls, are sort of like tree cysts induced by the presence of the host wasp’s young.

Once the egg hatches, the crypt-keeper larva burrows into the other wasp and takes over its mind, forcing it to start tunneling through the tree’s bark to freedom—a feat the crypt-keeper struggles to perform on its own. (Read more about mindsucking parasites in National Geographic magazine.)

Even more insidious, the larva then forces its victim to drill a hole too small for its own escape. Once the larger wasp is wedged in the opening it’s created, the crypt-keeper consumes its host from the inside out, finally erupting from B. pallida’s forehead out into the world.

It’s worth noting that the crypt-keeper’s namesake, Set, was thought to have control over other animals like hyenas and serpents. He also trapped his brother, Osiris, in a crypt, where he murdered him and mutilated his remains.

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