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Zombie Cicadas’ Plagued by Mind-Controlling Fungus, Now Back in West Virginia

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  • A third batch of “zombie cicadas” with “disturbing display of B-horror movie proportions” was found in West Virginia.
  • These cicadas have been infected by the parasitic Massospora fungus.
  • The fungus eats away at the cicadas bodies, replacing the lost tissues with fungal tissues.
  • Despite this, the insects stay alive while the fungus controls their minds.
  • As a result, the infected cicadas become sex-crazed and transmits the fungus into healthy cicadas.

A new population of cicadas plagued by parasitic fungus Massospora – dubbed as “zombie cicadas” – has been found in West Virginia once again, said a research team in West Virginia University.

In a press release, researchers shared that this is the third group of “zombie cicadas” found in West Virginia. These cicadas were found to be under the influence of a Massospora, a psychedelic fungus with hallucinogenic components. It is these components that eat away the cicadas’ bodies and control their minds.

How the Massospora Fungus Works
zombie-cicadas

One of the study’s co-authors, Matthew Kasson, says that the “zombie cicadas” got its name because of the effect of the parasitic Massospora.

zombie-cicadas

The Massospora spores consume the cicada’s body, starting from the genitals. After that, the butt and the abdomen disappear “like an eraser on a pencil.”

The lost body parts are then replaced with fungal tissues.

As the name suggests, the infected insects stay alive and continue nteracting with others, maximizing spore dispersal.   

zombie-cicadas

In other words, like “zombies”, the infected cicadas function normally – a unique quality of the insect-killing fungi, Massospora. The infection also leads to hypersexual behavior.

That said, even when their backsides become fungal plugs, the cicadas still sexually-transmit the fungus to healthy cicadas.

zombie-cicadas

While sexual transmission is fast, the Massospora spores can also spread through other ways.

‘I love them,’ said West Virginia University professor Mark Kasson.
Mark-Kasson

“We call them flying saltshakers of death because they basically spread the fungus the way salt would come out of a shaker that’s tipped upside down.”

An army of “zombie cicadas” may sound scary, but Kasson pointed out it does not affect humans. Researchers also believe that it is not yet a serious threat to the cicada population.

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