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t sounds like something out of science fiction: zombie fire ants. But it's all too real.
Fire ants wander aimlessly away from the mound.
Eventually their heads fall off, and they die.
The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and lay eggs. The maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain, and the ant starts exhibiting what some might say is zombie-like behavior.
"At some point, the ant gets up and starts wandering," said Rob Plowes, a research associate at UT.
The maggot eventually migrates into the ant's head, but Plowes said he "wouldn't use the word 'control' to describe what is happening. There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly. This wandering stage goes on for about two weeks."
About a month after the egg is laid, the ant's head falls off and the fly emerges ready to attack any foraging ants away from the mound and lay eggs.