The Dementor Wasp: New species of insect that can turn cockroaches into zombies named after Harry Potter character

Like the JK Rowling creation the Ampulex Dementor is known for sucking the life out of its victims

Jack Simpson
Wednesday 07 May 2014 17:33

The shadowy guards of Azkaban, known as Dementors, were made famous in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

Known for their ominous appearance and their ability to suck the life out of people, they would strike fear in any muggle or mud-blood that they came across.

However, if the latest edition of peer reviewed publication PLoS ONE is to go by, the animal kingdom may have already had a very similar kind of character in existence well before the books were released.

In a paper just released by Michael Ohl and those at Berlin’s Natural History Museum, a previously unnamed wasp native to Thailand, has finally been given a name and it just so happens to be that of JK Rowling’s evil creation.

The Ampulex Dementor, which is known for its ability to turn cockroaches into zombies with one sting, was given its name after visitors to Berlin’s Natural History Museum were asked to vote on what they felt the newly found species’ name should be.

They decided that Ampulex Dementor was an apt title, and for good reason too.

Like the Dementors in the Harry Potter books, who leave their victims in vegetative states after feeding on their souls, the Ampulex Dementor gives birth by first finding a cockroach and then delivering a toxic sting to the insect’s head.

Injecting in the cockroach a deadly dose of neurotoxins, it quickly becomes becomes submissive to the wasp and can be led back to the Ampulex Dementor’s burrow, where the Dementor’s eggs are laid inside the cockroach.

The cockroach then becomes a host for the Ampulex Dementor’s eggs and they feed off its carcass while they mature.

The name Ampulex Dementor won out over four other suggested names and was an exercise by the museum to try and get people to better engage with biodiversity and become excited about the discovery of new species.

This according to Ohl helped in achieving that goal.

He wrote in the paper: "Our public voting of a taxonomic name was received very positively. Visitors were highly interested and during the event spent a significant amount of time asking for details and listening to explanations."

Michael Sharkey, Entomologist at the University of Kentucky and expert in Thai wasp species commented on the announcement. He said: "What I find interesting about the name is that what is considered a fantasy among humans, the dementors of Harry Potter, is a reality in the world of insects."

This is not the first new species of insect to be named after a famous figure from popular culture. Bill Gates has a small Costa Rican fly named after him, while Bob Marley shares his name with a Carribean micro-crustacean.

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