These Hairworms Eat a Cricket Alive and Control Its Mind | Deep Look


The day starts normally enough. You give
your pet some food and water. But later …
… in your pet’s water dish, you find this.
A hairworm.
It didn’t get here on its own.
It came out of a little cricket. Don’t believe me?
OK.
These hairworms are gnarly parasites.
They actually control a cricket’s mind to get to their home: the water.
The hairworm’s journey starts innocently enough, in a river, as an egg …
one of many in this long string.
The eggs grow into squiggly larvae, which get eaten by a mayfly larva that also lives in the river.
And inside the mayfly is exactly where the hairworm needs to be.
The hairworm uses this pointy part to
burrow into the mayfly’s flesh.
Then it curls up and waits.
Because, really, it’s not after a mayfly.
It’s after a cricket.
So it sits tight, while the mayfly larva turns into an adult and heads to dry land …
where it just might get eaten by a cricket …
that has no idea what it’s in for.
Inside the cricket the hairworm goes at it, eating all the cricket’s stored-up fat, for about a month.
The cricket loses its chirp, but
the hairworm doesn’t kill the cricket …
… because the worm needs a lift back to
the water.
Crickets usually avoid bodies of water.
They’re not great swimmers.
So the worm takes over, boosting chemicals in the cricket’s brain, which make the cricket
walk around mindlessly until it happens
to reach water.
Scientists in France watched this infected cricket make a beeline for the pool.
The hairworm makes a break for it.
Still going.
Ugh, that’s just … ugh.
But don’t worry. They don’t target humans.
Ready for more?
This one at the University of New Mexico …
… has a whole lot of hairworms inside it.
They don’t waste any time, curling around each other to mate …
even before they’re fully outside the cricket.
But it’s more than a gruesome spectacle of nature.
Learning about these hairworms could help scientists …
understand parasites like toxoplasma …
that make us very sick.
As for the crickets, don’t feel bad.
If they don’t drown, most of them survive their ordeal.
At least that’s what scientists have seen in the lab.
They go back to being crickets and hopefully stay on dry land.
Hi, it’s Lauren. Who’s hungry for more after that?
We’d love to make more videos of amazing critters up close all year round.
But we need your help.
We’re a member-supported PBS show from KQED, in San Francisco.
That means to grow, we need you, our YouTube fans, to support us on Patreon.
Are you in? Link is in the description. Thanks.

100 comments

  1. Hi Deep Peeps! I produced this episode of Deep Look. To find out more details about the strange relationship between the hairworm and cricket, you can read the article I wrote: https://www.kqed.org/science/1937775/these-hairworms-eat-a-cricket-alive-and-control-its-mind Thanks for watching, and consider supporting us on Patreon so we can go film some episodes in Oaxaca, Mexico. -Gabriela

  2. Who feeds ur pets outside?
    Bruh you want racoons or something fighting your pet for the food?
    No I didn't think so

  3. In in bed watching this IM so uncomfortable whatever touch's me I'm like WHAT THE F IS THAT me moving ever

  4. What doesn't make sense is that these worms are born in water and then have to rely on other insects to take it out and then put it back in water? Do they die off if not eaten by anything? Just seems like its a little unnecessary

  5. -So the task is growing inside the water without being eaten by a fly larva, then get INSIDE the larva that would kill you, then waiting until it becomes an adult fly and it gets eaten hopefully by a cricket, then get fed inside its viscera until you're able to inject a chemical in its mind so it'll get into a water stream and you can poop yourself out of the corpse you were inside.
    -Worm: yes.

  6. I was scared if I was going to get a hair worm, until you guys said it doesn’t target humans! But, can you carry one of these guys? Maybe keep them as pets?

  7. So, just reminded me again why it leaves the water in the first place if its just going to go on a random mission looking for water?

  8. Wait why do they just control a cricket then go to water? Just to sit there contemplating why it even wants to be there?

  9. Theres a Korean film called Deranged that captures what these nasty things might do to humans. Absolutely disgusting

  10. So let me get this straight…. they begin life ALREADY in water just to hitch a ride or two in order to go back to the water?? 😉

  11. When I was 5, I had dogs and I saw a hairworm in my dogs' water I thought it was a noodle, until it kept wiggling, I got scared by it and told my dad, he looked at it and went, "what the…what is that?…" I looked at it, it was trying to get out of the bowl.

    My dad ended up killing it

  12. Just had a hosted cricket fly in my bedroom window, instantly i knew something was wrong. as he was flying into walls and just being overly spastic. once i finally killed it, sure enough a thin little warm came squirming out. I have never been more freaked out in my life.

  13. If I'm swimming in a pool and I see one of these I dont even think I will have it in me to get out I'll just start crying panicking screaming and eventually drowning…

  14. Christians and Muslims: "Evolution is a lie!" or "My God guided evolution!"
    I: "So, your God has designed this complicated parasitic process?"

  15. Me before knowing they don't like humans: Oh God. And people eat crickets?!?!? I SWEAR THERE IS GONNA BE A ZOMBIE APOCOLYPSE WHERE THESE THINGS TAKE OVER A HUMAN BRAIN AAAH!!
    Me now: oh thank God. Another crisis avoided…

  16. What she means by “Don’t worry it won’t control humans”

    Me: Yeah because my brain is too small-

  17. i- what? why be born IN WATER, then go through the trouble of infecting two different bugs, and literally mind controlling one to do your own bidding, just to end up BACK IN THE WATER. that’s like leaving your home, getting on a plane, and landing right outside your house again.

  18. So this is where liberal Democrats come from.🤔 Very educational, thank you. This will be shared all over America.

  19. Me: Afraid of the crickets in my area
    Also me: Remembers I am from Spain and this guys are from another country:
    CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH

  20. OMFG THE AD BEFORE THIS WIDE O WAS A 10 YEARS OLD AD!!!
    OMFG!
    They don't ewen sell that thoy nowdays what it was advertising XDD

  21. Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope

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