Seriously, I strongly warn you to not lean into your screen to get a better look at this monstrosity. This video shows the remains of a dead cricket that some random hiker stepped on while enjoying the great outdoors. Suddenly, the tranquillity of nature was interrupted by the reality of life and the parasites that erupted out of the cricket’s corpse.
Frankly, crickets have a parasite problem that no species should have to endure. The body invading organism seen above appears to be a horsehair worm aka a Gordian worm which is in the phylum nematomorpha. If that worm is, indeed, part of the horsehair variety, it’s technically a parasitoid.
Much like the wasp that overtakes cockroaches free will or the fungi that can turn ants into zombies, the Gordian worm has the ability to take control of its host’s mind. Because the adult hairworm is aquatic but can grow inside land-based insects, it can persuade the host to make its way to water.
Once conditions are right a mass of the worms will emerge and immediately mate. I don’t know if this is good or bad news for the cricket but often times the host can survive after being rid of the worms.
Parasitologist Ben Hanelt of the University of New Mexico explained to Wired:
Imagine if I told you to walk over to your car and remove half of its weight, but still have the car be able to get you to the airport. And somehow these worms have figured out how to do that within the cricket host, that they’re able to take half of everything that’s within that cricket but still make it tick. It’s kind of amazing.
Unfortunately for the parasites in this video, it would seem that the host did not live to find water. For the cricket, that’s probably the best outcome.