Murder hornets are bad enough, but researchers at West Virginia University have discovered “zombie cicadas,” caused by a parasitic fungus, called Massospora, that can play mind games on cicadas to spread the infection. Simply put, t his psychedelic fungus is capable of manipulating male cicadas into flicking their wings like females, similar to a mating call, to draw in other unsuspecting male cicadas and infect them. Read more for two videos and additional information.
Why does this happen? The Massospora fungus has chemicals, such as those found in hallucinogenic mushrooms. However, the scariest part is that the fungus could lay dormant inside its host for 17 years until something awakens it, like a hormone cue.
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Essentially, the cicadas are luring others into becoming infected because their healthy counterparts are interested in mating. The bioactive compounds may manipulate the insect to stay awake and continue to transmit the pathogen for longer,” said Brian Lovett, study co-author and post-doctoral researcher with the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.