Did you know that there are about a dozen species of fungi that turn cicadas and ants into zombies? Yep. Tiny little zombies are potentially all around us, and a major colony has reemerged in West Virginia.
Wait, didn’t the last Fallout game take place in West Virginia? Crap.
This creepy fungal pathogen, known as genus Massospora, infects a cicada by eating away at its abdomen and genitals until it can’t reproduce or control its own actions. In the ant version, the fungus controls the ants’ muscle movements, allowing them to continue to do their little ant work all day long while the fungus continues to feed on their bodies. Yeah, I warned you it was creepy.
But the cicada version might be even more frightening. When an infected cicada attempts to mate with another cicada, it spreads the fungus like a tiny STD. And the fungus even has a back-up plan if an infected male has no healthy females around to infect because it actually forces the male cicada’s wings to mimic a female’s mating dance to attract other healthy male cicadas.
“Infected cicadas, despite the fact that a third of their body has fallen off, continue to go about their activities like mating and flying as if nothing happened,” Massospora study co-author Matthew Kasson told CNN earlier this month. “This is really, really unique for insect-killing fungi.”
The kicker here is that this fungus is not new. It was first discovered in 1850 but because of the lifecycle of a cicada (usually up to 17 years!) the fungus can lie dormant in a colony and reemerge years later. And that’s exactly what happened in West Virginia during one of the largest insect plagues in that area in over a decade.
So it might be a good time to add some bug spray to your 2020 apocalypse bunker before it’s too late.
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