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What happened here?!!

What happened here?!!
Webb Canyon, ~2000 ft. altitude, Los Angeles County, California, USA
April 25, 2009
Size: ~6 mm
I assume this is a plant bug nymph, but I am not so much interested in obtaining a species ID, just extremely curious to find out what has happened to this unfortunate one. I assume this is a case of some kind of parasitism, but I have yet to find images of anything similar. Somewhat disturbingly, though it appeared incredibly lethargic, I incidentally poked it in the process of photographing it and was surprised to learn that it was definitely still alive. I am very keen to hear any and all suggestions as to what (or whom) has caused this deformity!

Images of this individual: tag all
What happened here?!! What happened here?!! What happened here?!!

Moved from Plant Bugs.

Moved from True Bugs.

See also
See also this hollow bug.

Thanks, John!
This is a very neat image for comparison. Interesting how this one's abdomen seems to be filled with a jelly-like substance whereas mine is completely empty...

It looks like a used candle. You can get candles in lots of shapes. Why not bugs? Failing that, a candle holder.

Neat find, Harsi!
This seemed like something I had read/written about, so I just looked it up in my book, and discovered that a fungus named Entomophthora erupta ejects its spores from a hole in the backs of living mirine plant bugs, which continue to go about their business as if nothing is wrong.

I just added a link to this image in the fungus article.

They are not killed by their abdomens erupting??

Different than what I've seen.
Does it leave a clean hole like this? From the pictures I've seen the fungus leaves fibers on the insect, and it erupts from several places. I may be thinking of something else though so correct me if I'm wrong :)

There are many, many kinds of pathogenic fungi. Some, such as this one

have conspicuous mycelium that erupts, for instance, between abdominal segments. While what I said above is as thorough a description as I've found of the fungus that attacks mirids, I have seen the results of Massospora cicadina, which causes the ends of cicadas' abdomens to drop off, leaving them hollowed out but without any visible sign of the fungal body. Another species is said to eject its spores through a neat hole in the side of a fly's abdomen. Both of these are in the order Entomophthorales, as is Entomophthora erupta. Given this, and the fact that this plant bug is showing exactly the symptoms described for this fungus--still walking around despite having its back blasted open--I see no reason to doubt that that's what happened here. Also, the distortion around the rim of the hole--best seen in the second image--is not consistent with the hole that would be chewed by an insect parasitoid such as one of the aphidiine braconids that mummify aphids.

In case you haven't seen it, here is the link to the fungus article I alluded to above, showing some of the diversity of arthropod pathogenic fungi. There will be a few other examples in my book, which comes out next year. :)

Thanks for the info, its always good to learn something new :)

It is always good to learn something new. Sorry for not making this statement earlier, but I wanted to say thank you very much to both Charley and Natalie for their informative comments. I actually had been attempting to do some online research of my own regarding the issue of parasitism vs. fungus. This may be old information to both of you, but I found portions of the text "Biology of the Plant Bugs" by Alfred George Wheeler and thought I would point to a few pertinent sections. Beginning on page 94 is text regarding euphorine braconids and their predation on nymphs. (Most notably, there is a physical description of what happens to the nymph's body in the 1st paragraph on page 95). Then, on page 98, there is text regarding entomophthoraceous fungus (beginning in the 2nd column).

Another insect was eating out its insides and then emerged :) I'm not sure what parasitoids use plant bugs as hosts but I'll see if I can find out. This is now a mummy, you find a lot of aphid mummies like this: , but I've never seen a plant bug mummy before. Cool find.

Some place to start...
I haven't done too much researching for myself yet on plant bug parisitoids, but here's a page I found on a Lygus species which has some info at the very end of the article on various species of parisitoid wasps. I'm sure there's much more info out there...

I thought it was unusual that this bug was still alive. I went back the next day to try and assess its condition, but either I couldn't relocate it or it had moved (or something else could have eaten it, I guess).

It hurts just to look at that thing. Wow.. I'm really curious about it too. Thanks for posting. Inquiring minds want to know.

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