A Really Gross Discovery On The Way Into an Otherwise Beautiful Temple
Scene of the Discovery entrance to the Rurikou-in Temple (瑠璃光院), Kyoto Japan Nov 2012 -- Rurikou-in Temple ( 瑠璃光院 ) -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Scene of the Discovery
entrance to the Rurikou-in Temple (瑠璃光院), Kyoto Japan
Nov 2012

More from the archives as I wade through my photo library, this time a gross discovery in November 2012. On our way into the Rurikou-in Temple (瑠璃光院) in Kyoto, Damien and I discovered a weird wire-like thing twisting and withering energetically on the steps.

Thin and Wirelike curling/uncurling haphazardly, almost violently めちゃイヤ! ハリガネムシ です。 -- Rurikou-in Temple ( 瑠璃光院 ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Thin and Wirelike
curling/uncurling haphazardly, almost violently
めちゃイヤ!ハリガネムシです。
Shoe for Scale -- Rurikou-in Temple ( 瑠璃光院 ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Shoe for Scale

I had never seen anything like it. My first thought was that it was a piece of wire that was caught by the wind or something, but it quickly became apparent that it was alive. It was too thin and hard to be any kind of worm I'd ever heard of, so I was dumbfounded.

It caught the attention of an old man going by, and he said that when he was a kid, these things would emerge from praying mantises. It was some kind of parasite. They'd see a praying mantis acting strangely, he said, and dip it in water and voila, the worm-like thing would emerge from the insect's rear end.

Yuuuuuck!

With this disquieting thought in mind, we left the worm-like organism to itself and continued up the steps, when lo and behold a few steps later we came to the body of a dazed mantis...

Discarded Host つかれられた生息地 -- Rurikou-in Temple ( 瑠璃光院 ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 7200 — map & image datanearby photos
Discarded Host
つかれられた生息地
Old Man Shows Us where the wire/worm thing had emerged from -- Rurikou-in Temple ( 瑠璃光院 ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Old Man Shows Us
where the wire/worm thing had emerged from

I did some investigation on the web, and this is more disgusting than I could have imagined.

The worm/wire thing is called a horsehair worm (the Japanese translates to wire bug), and they are the stuff nightmares are made of.

It turns out that the microscopic larva of the thing was drunk by some insect, which was then eaten by the mantis. That's how the larve gets into the mantis' gut. The larva then grows big enough to bore out of the gut and into the body cavity, and grows there into adulthood (inside the mantis, eventually filling its entire body cavity; it ends up being several times longer than the host). When it's ready to emerge, it wants to do so in water, so it somehow alters the mantis' brain to make it seek water like a thirst-crazed zombie. The mantis normally drowns itself in the process, at which point the worm-thing crawls out to go live its happy life, make (microscopic) babies, and start the cycle all over again.

Not for the faint of heart, but this video explains it in short, and there are many videos showing them in action (in English and in Japanese).

ハリガネムシのは聞いた事無かった。面白いですが、かなりいやです。ビデオはこちらです。

Gross. Just gross.

This mantis was not near the water, so maybe it was dying and the worm decided to bail early. I dunno. Yuck.

And so to not end on that thought, here is a quick look at the wonderful moss just inside the entrance to the temple...

Rurikou-in Temple ( 瑠璃光院 ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Rurikou-in Temple ( 瑠璃光院 ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Rurikou-in Temple ( 瑠璃光院 ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 5600 — map & image datanearby photos

All 7 comments so far, oldest first...

We get these horsehair worms here in Wales, too. Here they live in/off grasshoppers, so I expect are smaller than ones emerging from mantises, from memory about 10-15cm long. But they are just as active as you described, and every bit as repulsive in their habits. I’ve seen them twice here, neither time near open water — but it is often fairly damp in Wales!

— comment by Peter in Wales on October 2nd, 2014 at 6:04pm JST (2 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

So glad you wrote,Peter. It’s been quite a while since we heard from you. This is indeed a gruesome subject, but, as in all such things, somebody will want to make a horror story about it. So we now have a television series called “The Monsters Inside of Me” , describing , in unfortunate detail ,all type of parasites that dwell in humans and animals and even other insects.
Lucky for Jeff that there was someone nearby who could explain it, or they would never have made the connection with the Mantis. Fascinating, still.

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on October 2nd, 2014 at 11:25pm JST (2 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I expect that the moss was probably damp enough for the mantis to seek it out.
Corinna, from Geneva, Switzerland.

PS. I’ve been to Japan twice and loved it.

— comment by Corinna on October 3rd, 2014 at 5:28pm JST (2 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I’ve seen those videos of that worm. You’re right… very gross.

I’ve also seen (when we went to that super long roller-slide in Kasai) a praying mantis casually eating a cicada like a construction worker might chomp into a submarine sandwich.

Damn, insects… you scary!!!

— comment by Ron Evans on October 4th, 2014 at 12:38am JST (2 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Speaking of Ruriko-in, sadly it seems the temple is (permanently?) closed to the public. Quite tragic for me as it is a beautiful place, especially in autumn. There is a note on their website — something about preserving cultural property etc. i guess it just became overcrowded with tourists. I wonder if it’s possible to organize a private viewing. How sad.

Brian,
Manila.

— comment by Brian F. on October 4th, 2014 at 8:05pm JST (2 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Neat!

Did you read about parasitic fungus which rain down after zombifying ants found in Brazil (and, IIRC, in USA also)?

Hard to imagine if not seen, parasitic worm in snail’s eyes X_X (I somehow had missed this until now in the series).

Um, yeah, I’m gunna’ go ahead and not click those links. I want to be able to sleep for the rest of my future.—Jeffrey

— comment by parv on October 5th, 2014 at 12:09am JST (2 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Parasites are fascinating. I recently learned while visiting a farm here in Oregon that flies will often lay their eggs in sheep wool if the animal is lying fairly still and the weather is damp enough (which it often is in the PNW.) The eggs hatch and the larvae begin to eat the flesh of the sheep. Local farmers call this “fly strike.” It’s hard to tell if sheep have this until their wool starts to fall out in clumps, but it’s terribly painful and itchy for the poor animal. I’ve been learning a lot about parasites like jiggers and bot flies recently, and I figure that it’s probably useful information for me since I recently received an ESL certification and am working on some Nursing certificates, so I will probably be doing some traveling soon. Excellent post!

— comment by Julia on October 15th, 2014 at 1:18am JST (2 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...


All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.


You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting