Scientists advised against consuming hypersexual zombie cicadas infected with psychoactive fungus.

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‘Flying salt shakers of death:’ Fungal-infected ‘zombie’ cicadas

June 25, 2019
West Virginia University
Cicadas can carry a fungus containing chemicals similar to those found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, making them zombie-like fliers.

If cicadas made horror movies, they’d probably study the actions of their counterparts plagued by a certain psychedelic fungus.

West Virginia University researchers have discovered that a cicada fungus called Massopora contains chemicals similar to those found in hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The fungus causes cicadas to lose their limbs and eccentric behavior sets in: Males try to mate with everything they encounter, although the fungus has consumed their genitals and butts.

Despite the horrid physical state of infected cicadas, they continue to roam around freely as if nothing’s wrong, dousing other cicadas with a dose of their disease.

You’ve heard of “The Walking Dead.” This is “The Flying Dead.”

“They are only zombies in the sense that the fungus is in control of their bodies,” said Matt Kasson, assistant professor of forest pathology and one of the study’s authors.

Cicadas first encounter the fungus underground where they spend 13 to 17 years before emerging to the surface as adults, Kasson said. Within seven to 10 days above ground, the abdomen begins to slough off revealing the fungal infection at the end of the cicada, he continued.

It’s quite the coming out party.

“Infected adults maintain or accelerate normal host activity during sporulation, enabling rapid and widespread dispersal prior to host death,” Kasson said. “They also engage in hypersexual behaviors.”

Joining Kasson on this research published in Fungal Ecology are his Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design colleagues Greg Boyce, Kasson’s former Ph.D. student in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences; and Daniel Panaccione, professor of plant and soil sciences.

The impetus of the study came in 2016 when billions of cicadas ascended upon the northeast United States. Two of Kasson’s students loved cicadas. One, Matt Berger, convinced the professor to study the fungus. Another student, Angie Macias, coined a creative, heavy metal sounding name for the cicadas: “flying salt shakers of death.”

Initially, the research team tried infecting the cicadas in a lab but that method did not work. But they managed to examine enough infected cicadas from the wild to make the new discovery.

Full article here.

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John Adams
September 14, 2019 6:09 pm

Wow. Who’d have thought.

Reply to  John Adams
September 14, 2019 9:26 pm

The sole aim of a cicada once it emerges from the ground is to reproduce. How does “hypersexualised behaviour” fit on top of that.

IMO this is just click-bait pseudo-science. SEX and DRUGS and a silly ROCK & ROLL naming. Nothing of substance.

Bill Powers
Reply to  John Adams
September 15, 2019 4:27 am

Zombie Cicadas. Wait for it…Global Warming.

old white guy
Reply to  John Adams
September 15, 2019 4:55 am

Who the heck eats cicadas???????

Reply to  old white guy
September 15, 2019 9:01 am

Birds. Wonder if they’d then become zombie-birds……

Bird Brains! Bird Brains! BIRD BRAINS

Joel O'Bryan
September 14, 2019 6:14 pm

Anyone stupid enough to look for a psycho-active cicada to consume for a “trip” deserves to join the growing List of Darwin Award candidates.

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 14, 2019 11:58 pm

Is that polite language for saying they are scheduled for de-selection? 😉

Bryan A
Reply to  Alan the Brit
September 15, 2019 12:13 am

Any fungus which makes the hosts genitalia “Fall Off” should likely NOT be included in one’s diet, regardless of any psychotropic effects.

September 14, 2019 6:23 pm

Well, thank goodness it has never occurred to me to switch from eating chicken, beef and pork to consuming hypersexual zombie cicadas infected with psychoactive fungus for the sake of the climate!

September 14, 2019 6:24 pm

Well, that’s good news. I’ll throw out MY stash tonight!

September 14, 2019 6:39 pm

Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend scientists eat those things, either!

Wait… why just scientists??

Reply to  RockyRoad
September 14, 2019 7:22 pm

Exactly why I’m not too worried about AI – just about the people that use it. Just like the “scientists” that use models when they don’t understand what they are modeling.

That is a perfectly good English sentence. So is the one in another article (which I think went through a translation program, so a slightly different cause) – where the head of the WMO supposedly says we don’t have to give up child labor.

These are occasionally amusing, but also a sign of the degeneration in communication.

Reply to  Writing Observer
September 15, 2019 8:08 am

The old joke when translating software was first being developed was, the proverb, “out of sight, out of mind,” was translated from English to Russian, and back to English. The result they got back was, “blind idiot.”

Reply to  jtom
September 17, 2019 9:31 am

Woe be to those that try to translate an idiom literally.

Reply to  RockyRoad
September 14, 2019 7:28 pm

Before now, nobody else had heard of this. Now we’re going to have hordes of stoners wandering the wild looking for infected cicadas. They will ignore the warnings because they know ‘the man’ always lies about that kind of thing. Personally, I limit my mind altering substances to C2H6O. ‘The man’ doesn’t always lie.

Reply to  commieBob
September 14, 2019 7:44 pm

dimethyl ether?
That’s a little harsh, isn’t it? Better than hallucinogenic bugs, I suppose.

Reply to  TonyL
September 15, 2019 12:21 am

Say what! I’m obviously not a chemist ’cause I didn’t even think of that. How about CH3−CH2−OH.

Andy in Epsom
Reply to  commieBob
September 15, 2019 4:31 am

Can anyone say in plain english what these are. I am obviously not in the same league as these clever people

Reply to  commieBob
September 15, 2019 6:47 am

Andy in Epsom : Ethanol. Booze.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  commieBob
September 15, 2019 11:51 am

There is an offspring of the World Health Organization that is tasked with testing various substances for carcinogenic properties. This is the ‘laboratory’ that came up with the weed-killer determination – after that had been tested in many countries over 30 years without problems.

A couple of weeks ago they declared alcohol to be – yup – carcinogenic.

Bloody marvelous…..

Reply to  commieBob
September 15, 2019 12:43 pm

I thought that was usually written C2H5OH, the second member of alcohol group. Or is that rearrangement for the purposes of obfuscation , like monohydrogen dioxide ?

Reply to  commieBob
September 15, 2019 5:53 pm

Sometimes, order is important.

Reply to  commieBob
September 15, 2019 7:45 pm

@Tombstone Gabby I bet if you gave me some of the special breed of mice that is susceptible to cancer, and some grant money I could prove that water is carcinogenic. Just get the dose high enough, but not so high to kill the mouse, and you can come up with this conclusion!

September 14, 2019 6:52 pm

What’s up with using a photo of insects other than cicadas? These look like pyrops candelaria, a lanternfly species that lives in southeast Asia.

Reply to  Charles Rotter
September 15, 2019 12:55 am

LOL. I just thought that was what the infected ones looked like.

Reply to  commieBob
September 15, 2019 12:47 pm

Yes, that was the crazy impression I got a first, except that the body was nothing like a cicada either. At least we now get a photo of a cicada. Thanks.

Reply to  Charles Rotter
September 15, 2019 9:23 am

I see it’s now fixed, thanks!

Walter Sobchak
September 14, 2019 7:47 pm

It is even worse than we thought.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
September 14, 2019 10:19 pm

and it may already be too late!

Pop Piasa
September 14, 2019 7:51 pm

The very idea leaves a terrible taste in my mouth, for sure. 🤢

Tom Abbott
September 14, 2019 8:31 pm

Well, these scientists have really screwed up their paper. They forgot to connect it to human-caused Climate Change!

No more grants for you!

Patrick MJD
September 14, 2019 8:56 pm

It’s probably what the founder of extinction rebellion had the night before her epiphany.

Kevin kilty
September 14, 2019 8:59 pm

Donald Klipstein wins the prize. Those pictures are of lanternflies.

September 14, 2019 9:08 pm

Where does one find these hypersexual psilocybin pills?

Do insects and animals that eat cicadas demonstrate untoward effects? There are quite a few critters that love to snack on cicadas including ducks, chickens and turkeys, along with mice, snakes, raccoons and the odd Boy Scout.

Reply to  ATheoK
September 15, 2019 9:58 am

Is that why that Bot Scout is odd?

Reply to  Drake
September 15, 2019 12:54 pm

“Boy” scout. Griff is a “bot” (don’t know about the “scout” part.)

R Moore
September 14, 2019 9:36 pm

There is a lot of ‘well-known’ craziness in nature. Could show up anywhere, then what do you do? Must be the extra humidity from CAGW. This article is also about nature run amuck.

September 14, 2019 9:54 pm

If cicadas made horror movies they would have warmists in prominent roles – no costumes or make-up required.

Greg Cavanagh
September 14, 2019 9:57 pm

Sounds like the Reavers of the insect world.

Craig from Oz
September 14, 2019 10:24 pm

“Another student, Angie Macias, coined a creative, heavy metal sounding name for the cicadas: “flying salt shakers of death.””

Flying salt shakers..? Heavy Metal sounding…? Yeah…

You keep using those words. Somehow I don’t think they mean what you think they mean.

Craig from Oz
September 14, 2019 10:31 pm

Also I am confused.

Are the conditions listed in this vital health and safety food warning individual or collective?

I mean if I find prudish zombie cicadas infected with psychoactive fungus can I chow down with confidence?

Jeff Alberts
September 14, 2019 10:33 pm

Soylent Cicada?

September 15, 2019 12:34 am

This is a striking case of a parasitic organism modifying the behavior of its host in order to facilitate the spread of the parasite.

Rabies virus which causes infected animals to go berserk and bite other animals is a similar example.

Evolution has a rather nasty imagination sometimes it seems…

September 15, 2019 12:37 am

Follow the link to Harpers. The whole list is fascinating.

I especially like the idea that two-thirds of atheists cease to be atheists after a personal encounter with God! I should hope so!

Greg S.
September 15, 2019 4:40 am

Sounds similar to another behavior modifying fungus that infects certain species of ants: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (or Cordyceps for short)

Hocus Locus
September 15, 2019 8:15 am

Another exhibit in the Theater of the Macabre,

[cite] Mother Nature, you see, has cooked up an even more sadistic punishment for the humble snail. It’s called Leucochloridium, and it’s a parasitic worm that invades a snail’s eyestalks, where it pulsates to imitate a caterpillar (in biology circles this is known as aggressive mimicry—an organism pretending to be another to lure prey or get itself eaten). The worm then mind-controls its host out into the open for hungry birds to pluck out its eyes. The worm breeds in the bird’s guts, releasing its eggs in the bird’s feces, which are happily eaten up by another snail to complete the whole bizarre life cycle.

Bryan A
Reply to  Hocus Locus
September 15, 2019 9:19 am


September 15, 2019 1:22 pm

There is, in the biology world, a vague belief that the type of behavior changes seen in these types of parasitic infections is somehow “intentional” — that the parasite intends the changes seen — as if the parasite was a rational, thinking entity. That belief, even when underplayed and only hinted at, is utter nonsense.

The Rabies Virus does not intend to make dogs (or other infected animals) crazy and over-aggressive. If we are to accept a Neo-Darwinist view — the rabies virus is successful (spreads) because, as a side effect of the infection, certain animal species get “crazy” and over-aggressive which causes them to bite other animals and spread rabies.

In the case of the cicada, the fungal infection is successful because of side effects of the infection.

To claim intention, you must wander into “designer-land” in which there is a designer of such intention.

September 15, 2019 3:03 pm

The article had a far fetched title. It looked contrived to attract lots of hits. I think it works. Very catchy.

Perhaps WUWT should strive for more click-bait-enticing titles. Might I suggest a few:

Brain Dead Policy Makers Urge General Populace to Stop Eating Flesh, Worship the Wind and Sun, and Give All Disposable Income To Climate-Doom Research

Hyper Sensitive Lesbian and Bisexual Phds Demand Sacrificing Future Children to Non-Existence by Not Having Sex for Reproductive Purposes, Join Ultra-Activist Eco Cults, and Learn to Play the Flute to Reduce Carbon Footprints

They’re a little rough and maybe need work, but I did them on the fly. Improve them, if you wish, and/or add your own.

Mike S.
September 16, 2019 4:55 pm

The Harper’s article linked had even more interesting headlines (which was all it seemed to be – a stream of headlines):

Advisers to the Scottish government recommended canceling protections enjoyed by wandering sand dunes in Aberdeenshire that have been destroyed by Donald Trump.

A court in Devonshire considered the benefits of re-beavering.

A 13,000-acre wildfire in Spain was sparked when decomposing chicken feces burst into flames.

German police used anti-riot water cannons to cool down Berlin’s trees.

The earliest evidence of cannabis use, in the Pamir Mountains, also involved human sacrifice and harp music.

Two thirds of atheists stop identifying as such after a personal encounter with God.

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