Manipulation of host behavior by parasitic insects and insect parasites

Frederic Libersat, Antonia Delago, Ram Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Parasites often alter the behavior of their hosts in ways that are ultimately beneficial to the parasite or its offspring. Although the alteration of host behavior by parasites is a widespread phenomenon, the underlying neuronal mechanisms are only beginning to be understood. Here, we focus on recent advances in the study of behavioral manipulation via modulation of the host central nervous system. We elaborate on a few case studies, in which recently published data provide explanations for the neuronal basis of parasite-induced alteration of host behavior. Among these, we describe how a worm may influence the nervous system of its cricket host and manipulate the cricket into committing suicide by jumping into water. We then focus on Ampulex compressa, which uses an Alien-like strategy for the sake of its offspring. Unlike most venomous hunters, this wasp injects venom directly into specific cerebral regions of its cockroach prey. As a result of the sting, the cockroach remains alive but immobile, but not paralyzed, and serves to nourish the developing wasp larva.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-207
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • Amines
  • Brain
  • Neurons
  • Wasp
  • Worm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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