A VIRUS straight out of a ‘zombie horror film’ has sent caterpillars on a relentless march to their death.

Skins of Oak Eggar moth caterpillars, which were infected by the baculovirus, have been discovered across the West Pennine Moors.

The micro organism infects the larvae and changes its instincts to hide away from sunlight and climb to the tops of plants.

The virus causes the caterpillar to explode, causing the strain to spread to other insects.

Dr Chris Miller, the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside’s mosslands manager, said cases had also been found in Winmarleigh Moss, near Garstang.

He said: “It’s like a zombie horror film.

“I was carrying out a large heath butterfly survey on Winmarleigh Moss and noticed a caterpillar hanging from the end of a branch of a small bush.

“Later on I saw another one hanging from a tall blade of grass. Both were dead but otherwise intact

“Whilst checking some other branches I noticed small scraps of caterpillar skin on a couple of branches suggesting the two I had seen were not the only ones to be affected.

“It’s pretty gruesome when you think about it.

“It is really unusual seeing caterpillars high up as they can be eaten by birds.

“This is a caterpillar of the oak eggar moth which eats heather and bilberry so it is normally hidden in the undergrowth, not at the top of plants.”

Research is proving that the baculovirus actually affects the way the ‘zombie insects’ respond to light, making them climb to higher and more dangerous places and when they get there they die.

A Wildlife Trust spokesman said: “We would ask everyone who sees caterpillars or snails for that matter high up on leaves to report it to us.

“They usually hide away from sunlight to protect themselves from predators.

"People should remain vigilant and look out for them.”