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13 Horrifying Ways To Die (Arthropod Edition)

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Scared of insects, spiders, or other leggy arthropods? It could be worse. You could be one of them. At that size you face an array of dangers unlike anything you know from your comfortably large human existence.

Here are just a few of the many perils to worry about as an arthropod.

1. Your guts are impaled on spiky ant teeth.

Odontomachus coquereli trap-jaw ant with cricket prey (Madagascar).

2. Your innards are suddenly sucked out by a predatory maggot.

Schlorp! An Aphis nerii milkweed aphid meets an end at the suction-mouth of a hover fly larva (Arizona).

3. Your brain is invaded by a zombie fungus that directs you to an ideal spot for your parasite to release spores.

A cricket has succumbed to a insect-eating fungus (Belize).

4. One of your friends turns out to be a giant hungry spider.

Betrayal! An Aphantochilus rogeri ant-mimic spider feeds on the turtle ants it resembles. Like most spiders, Aphantochilus dissolves the tissues of the prey with injected venom and sucks up the slurry (Ecuador).

5. Wasp larvae eat you alive while you can’t move.

This spider is alive but paralyzed. She will make a tasty, days-long meal for the young wasp that hatches from the egg. Paralyzed prey doesn't rot as quickly as dead prey, so this seemingly morbid scheme has reason. (Victoria, Australia)

6. Your head takes a direct injection of Dracula Ant venom.

Ouch! This earth centipede is the preferred prey of the Stigmatomma oregonense dracula ant. It will be paralyzed with this sting and fed alive to piles of hungry ant larvae (California).

7. You are pulled from your comfortable house by ravaging hordes of army ants.

This termite is being drawn, quartered, and stung in the head by a passing raid of Eciton army ants. If there were one general rule of rainforest ants, it's that everything likes to eat termites (Ecuador).

8. Your body is slowly weakened and destroyed by wasp grubs feeding on your insides.

An inchworm carries pupae of braconid wasps that have emerged from its body (Illinois).

9. You are hunted incessantly by a pack of determined ants.

This young queen fire ant attempts to escape from pursuing Forelius ants by climbing a grass blade. She may have to jump to survive (Florida).

10. You fall into a pit with a voracious predator at the bottom.

An antlion hurls sand at a Camponotus ant attempting to climb out of the trap (Florida).

11. A fly lays an egg in you that causes your head to fall off.

Pseudacteon ant-decapitating fly attacking Solenopsis fire ants (Entre Rios, Argentina).

12. Your corpse is dragged around as a trophy by a giant, leggy predator.

Bittacus chlorostigma hangingfly with carpenter ant prey. The hangingfly will present his capture as a nuptial gift to potential mates (California).

13. A giant hand mashes you to the wall.

This mosquito wasn't fast enough to avoid a swat (Paraná, Brazil).

Actually, this last one doesn’t seem so bad compared to the others. At least it’s fast.

Happy Halloween!

Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. aidel 3:00 pm 10/31/2012

    You should see what happens when people drink Draino.

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  2. 2. Cotesia1 4:22 pm 10/31/2012

    Is there some lesson in that most of the killers are other arthropods? You could run these/similar great pictures again for Thanksgiving. Maybe?

    Go Team Braconidae!!!

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  3. 3. spelia 7:07 pm 10/31/2012

    Just lovely! thanks.

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  4. 4. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 11:56 am 11/4/2012

    The fungus was the best. All were cool, though.

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  5. 5. TheHymenopteran 4:53 pm 11/4/2012

    The Cordyceps fungus definitely wins :)

    Link to this
  6. 6. tuned 11:40 am 10/31/2013

    I thought that girl at the party was wearing buns!

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