Sex-Crazed Zombie Cicadas On Speed: Scientists Track Bug-Controlling Fungus

"LISLE, Illinois — With their bulging red eyes and their alien-like mating sound, periodical cicadas can seem scary and weird enough. But some of them really are sex-crazed zombies on speed, hijacked by a super-sized fungus.

West Virginia University mycology professor Matt Kasson, his 9-year-old son Oliver, and graduate student Angie Macias are tracking the nasty fungus, called Massospora cicadina. It is the only one on Earth that makes amphetamine — the drug called speed — in a critter when it takes over. And yes, the fungus takes control over the cicada, makes them hypersexual, looking to spread the parasite as a sexually transmitted disease.

“They’re zombies, completely at the mercy of the fungus,” said University of Connecticut cicada researcher John Cooley."

Seth Borenstein reports for the Associated Press June 19, 2024.

Source: AP, 06/21/2024