This hawk moth (most likely a Violet Gliding Hawk Moth (Ambulyx liturata, Sphingidae)) has been parasitized by an Akanthomyces fungus (probably Akanthomyces pistillariiformis), a Cordyceps anamorph peculiar to moths.
After killing the moth, the fungus then totally engulfs and embalms the corpse producing this macabre sight. (An entomopathogenic fungus is a fungus that can act as a parasite of insects and kills or seriously disables them.)
A bullet ant infected with Cordyceps parasitic fungus. Tiputini, Ecuador.
Cordyceps fungi is a common ingredient in Chinese herbal
medicines. In general, mushrooms wouldn’t seem like an obscure
ingredient, however, this particular mushroom grows from the bodies of
insects. If a spore lands on an insect, it can infect it. The fungus
then grows within the body, using the internal organs as a food source.
Eventually, the fungus rips out of the insect, distributing more spores.
Could a zombie apocalypse happen in real life? It already (kind of) does in nature — and not just to ants.
This parasitic fungus preys on insects, slowly invading and
overtaking its host. Some Cordyceps species can exact a degree of mind
control on its victim, forcing them to climb up high in their last
moments so the Cordyceps’ spores can fall down on more victims below.
Cordyceps is a genus of parasitic fungi that invade insects such as ants, spiders and caterpillars. The fungus infects the brain of their host, modifying its behaviour. The insect is suddenly driven to climb plants so that the maximum amount of fungal spores can be distributed. The insect will eventually die as the fungus erupts out of its body, causing some pretty dramatic displays.