These tiny tiny flies are actually gruesome killing machines… what is more they WANT TO EAT YOUR BRAINS, well they do if you happen to be a type of South American ant which I grant is unlikely as you would probably be reading a Spanish or Quechuan marvellous menagerie or some such… and would probably have difficulty with the pages… actually that would be the least of your problems if you had an ant decapitating fly on your hands.
These zombie flies come from a diverse bunch of flies known as the scuttle flies… so called because… yes quite you’ve seen them scuttling around then… smashing.
What these ant decapitating scuttle flies do is jump on the back of some hapless ant, stab it with their ovipositor and stick an egg into the poor sod… the egg quickly develops into a larvae and wriggles up the body and into the head. There the hungry maggot chows down on the brain until it is entirely gobbled up. Remarkably the ant, while having to take a bit more time over The Times cryptic crossword these days, is still able to walk and do other menial chores. Of course if this was done to you or I we would a) be very unhappy about it b) be quite dead… and therefore probably not really mind that much about it. Ants however have a number of ganglion down their back that act as miniature brains.
After the ant decapitating fly larvae has been bimbling around in the ant’s head for about two weeks, having a merry old time enjoying the view and the cuisine, the fly larvae releases an enzyme that dissolves through the muscles in the back of the ant’s head. Of course the ant’s head bobs off, and the larvae has a bit of a snooze pupating to work off the delicious lunch he’s had. A couple of weeks later and after a bit of a costume change off he flies to go and bother some other poor sod.
The ant decapitating flies are part of the rather diverse Phoridae family of flies. A group containing the rather gruesome group the coffin flies that feast on the human remains inside their final resting places, scurrying six feet through the soil for a bit of a mange, they include the omnivorous species Megaselia scalaris who will happily eat virtually anything… plants, open wounds on any animal, living lung tissue, even boot polish and paint.
Though it is the ant-decapitating zombie fly that we have in our hearts… though thankfully not in our heads. The ants that they bother, mainly in the tropics, no doubt keep them in a lower esteem. The lengths that these ants go to to avoid having their brain eaten are remarkable… though quite understandable. Some species of leaf cutter ant have even gone to the measure of having an escort, one to carry the leaf one to tussle with the ant decapitating flies.