Causes zombie roaches: Dementor Wasp

Published: May 29, 2015

Causes zombie roaches: Dementor Wasp, Branding can get you everywhere, even if you’re just a bug. Boy, does the “Ampulex dementor” wasp know it. Over a year ago, officially, no one was aware that it even existed.

But on Wednesday, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling retweeted its photo, and the buzz helped propel the insect with a creepy sting to worldwide fame. Possibly for eons before, it had lived in obscurity in an enormous Southeast Asian jungle, until it was discovered last year.

But why would Rowling care? It’s all in the name.

The Ampulex dementor is also called “Soul-Sucking Dementor.” And the wasp was named for the sooty, skeletal, flying “dementor” character that appears in Rowling’s novels and sucks the humanity out of its victims.

One almost got Harry at Hogwarts once, but a schoolmate sprang to Potter’s aid.

Newly discovered wasp named after the soul-sucking dementors in Harry Potter. Thanks for the inspiration @jk_rowling! pic.twitter.com/p8nguCGD6t

— WWF (@WWF) May 27, 2015
Over a year ago, when a group of German scientists discovered the wasp in Thailand’s Mekong region, Ampulex dementor didn’t yet have a name. And the researchers decided to give the public a say in its taxonomy — the scientific term for classifying a newly discovered species.

They took specimens back to Berlin, where they added them to some 30 million other exhibits at the natural history museum, the Museum für Naturkunde.

The Soul-Sucking Dementor looks like others wasps, flies like other wasps. But it has a particular appetite for cockroaches, and a somewhat unique sting.

“A. dementor hunts cockroaches, injecting a venom into the mass of neurons on its prey’s belly that turns the roach into a passive zombie,” the World Wildlife Fund wrote in a statement. “Cockroach wasp venom blocks receptors of the neurotransmitter octopamine, which is involved in the initiation of spontaneous movement.”

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