Cordyceps militaris is a fungus from the tubular fungi division that parasitizes on butterfly pupae.
Cordyceps species are among the few fungi that “dock” onto insect larvae or adult hosts with parasitic intent. Cordyceps militaris, which is also found in our region, attacks pupal stages of moths deposited in the soil. All Cordyceps species are specialized on more or less one single host, some species attack living ants, others also attack larger insects.
Since the traditional species (C.sinensis), which occurs only in the Himalayas, cannot come close to meeting the enormous worldwide demand, is now considered endangered, and is very difficult to bring to fruition, C.militaris, a close relative with similar potential, has been produced on an industrial scale in Asia for about 15 years.
Cordyceps militaris loses the ability to fruit particularly quickly, after no more than 1 year or 5 transfers to a new culture medium, it no longer gets beyond mycelial formation. In contrast to stander fungi (Basidiomycota), cultures of various tubular fungi (Ascomycota) cannot be kept fertile for a particularly long time by cloning. Therefore, new hybrids from ascospores have to be grown again and again for ongoing production.