Muscid Fly with Entomophthora fungus

Joined
Oct 11, 2007
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Location
Missouri
What an amazing find tonight. One of my recently clipped Butterfly bushes was littered with dead flies. Upon closer inspection, they were all killed by a fungus. It is an Entomophthora fungus and is my first time to observe such a brutal infection of fungus. There were a good dozen insects dead and grasping the tops of branches. There were a couple still alive but were also infected.

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At the top of a freshly pruned branch
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In the late stages of fungal infestation....fly was literally mutilated and mangled.
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Two that were still alive, but they have no chance. From the looks of the underside of their abdomen, they have been infected as well.
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Joined
Jan 25, 2006
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127
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Atlanta, GA.
Wow! Like something out of a science fiction movie. Did the fungus kill that quickly or are they infected flies that returned to the bush after carrying around the fungus for a day or two?
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2006
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Atlanta, GA.
Just found this in Wiki under Entomophthora muscae:

Soon after a fly dies from infection with this pathogenic fungus, large primary conidia are produced at the apex of a conidiophore which emerge from the intersegmental membranes. When the spores are mature they are forcibly ejected and may fall onto flies resting nearby. If no hosts are available for infection, a smaller secondary conidium may develop.[2] The conidia germinate within a few hours and a germ tube begins to penetrate the insect's cuticle.[3] Once this reaches the haemocoel, the cytoplasm flows through the tube and into the fly's haemolymph. The mycelium of the fungus may grow into an area of the brain that controls the behaviour of the fly, forcing it to land on a surface and crawl upwards. The hyphae gradually grow through the whole of the body, digesting the guts, and the fly dies in about five to seven days.[4] When it is critically ill, it tends to crawl to a high point, straighten its hind legs and open its wings, a behaviour that ensures that the fungal spores are dispersed as widely as possible.[5] Some three hours later, conidiophores start to develop and a new shower of conidia is initiated.[2]
Definitely a great find, NateS.
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
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351
Location
Florida
How lucky to find a killer fungus like that! Since seeing them on Planet Earth I have hoped I would run into one to photograph in action.
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2008
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213
Location
Alexandria, Va
wow!
were you stalking the fly as it further became overwhelmed byt the fungus? haha

just curious, was that the same fly, just sitting on that plant for a while (days?), and you got it before and after it died, or was that a different one dead already?

incredible shots!
 
Joined
Oct 11, 2007
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2,483
Location
Missouri
Thanks for all the comments everybody. To Eddie, this was more than one fly and some of them at various stages of infection. There were probably at least a dozen flies dead on this plant and infected with the fungus and I saw two flies (might have been the same one twice) that were infected but still able to move and fly a bit.
 
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