A deadly fungus infects and controls the minds of house flies, before consuming them from the inside out — and that’s just the start of its gruesome reproductive strategy. As the fungus’s grand finale, its spores, which poke from the cadavers of infected female flies, emit an alluring scent that seduces males into mating with the corpses.
When the pathogenic fungus Entomophthora muscae infects house flies (Musca domestica), it begins by manipulating their behavior, compelling the flies to climb to an elevated surface, like a tall plant stem or twig. The zombie flies then cling and die there with their wings outstretched, in order to better disperse the fungal spores that sprouted from their bodies.
But for female flies, the horror doesn’t end with their deaths. The fungus also emits chemicals resembling those produced by females when they’re ready to mate. That sexy scent is thought to be extremely potent, because it attracts healthy males and prompts them to mount the dead females; the males in turn become infected and fly off to spread the fungal spores among their friends and neighbors.