Forget COVID-19, it’s fungi we should be worried about! We stumbled across this moth covered in a fungus in Angelina National Forest last October and I knew it was one of the cordyceps family fungi as soon as I saw it, though I couldn’t quite place the name at the time.
I had seen several people post their own photos of insects parasitized by this fungus or a related species in the few months prior and just never thought I’d stumble across my own sighting.
So, the fun thing about these fungi is that once they parasitize their host, they cover the body with this weird growth so that it can easily release the spores and infect another host. They also alter the animal’s behavior, usually, so that the insect will die on a branch up high where there is a likelihood for another unsuspecting insect to become infected.
Being as fungi are complicated taxonomically speaking, I’m not totally certain which one this is without me or someone else looking at it under a scope. I initially thought it might be Akanthomyces aculeatus but someone more knowledgeable in this sort of thing called it Complex A. tuberculatus. Either way, you can get your fill on information about both here.
I suspect the poor victim was a luna moth.
Angelina National Forest, October 2022.