Entomophthora comes from the Greek roots entomo (entomo), meaning insect, and jqora (phthora), meaning deterioration/damage/destruction/decay
– so a very apt construction. It belongs to a group (Phylum) of fungi called
Zygomycota, and is very far removed from the various fungi, such as mushrooms,
bracket fungi, and even yeast, that we are more familiar with.
The reason for the name puppeteer fungus is the concept that
some of these fungi effectively hijack the insect’s brain, turning them into ‘zombies’
with behaviours that enhance the further success of the fungal infection.
Entomophthora fungus is not uncommon, provided the
right conditions prevail, but infected flies, apart from being small, tend to
cling to the undersides of leaves or are otherwise unobvious and not noticed by
the vast majority of people. I found a dozen or so infected and very dead flies
early one dewy morning in mid-September when I was inspecting our nectarine
tree to see how much fruit set there might be this year. Later, I found more on a range of other plants, including azaleas and on the undersides of the leaves of the olive tree. These provided opportunities for what I think are some beautiful, if rather gruesome, photos.
Several links to further information are provided at the end
of this post.