If you didn’t grow up inside of a zombie ladybug, you really missed out. That’s how the larvae of a species of parasitic wasp spend their formative days, using a half-alive, twitching ladybug husk as an incubator and a shield from predators.
The mother wasps of the species Dinocampus coccinellae sting the ladybugs and lay their eggs within the host. The hatchlings eat their way out of the ladybug like one of Ridley Scott’s Chestbursters and build a cocoon under the host’s legs. Thing is, the poor, mutilated ladybug is still alive and twitching through all of this. Scientists aren’t sure what keeps it twitching, but suspect it’s some kind of toxin released as it’s being eaten from the inside out.
Keeping the ladybug alive turns out to be a huge advantage. A recent study showed that cocoons were gobbled up wholesale by lacewing insects when left unprotected, and only had a slightly lower chance of being eaten inside of a dead ladybug. But inside of their zombie ladybug bodyguard husk? They survived two thirds of the time. Which makes sense, because, like, who would want to go anywhere near a twitching zombie husk? [Physorg, BBC]