Date: June 9-10, 2021
I was reading an article about Ancient Egypt on the Smithsonian Magazine website when I was distracted by a headline in a sidepanel labeled "Most Popular." The headline in question read:
For one, it was nearly midnight, so I couldn't see this and not start laughing. And I don't know about you, but I immediately had to click on it and find out what was going on with these cicadas' butts!
Okay, this stuff is crazy! Reading this article and looking up pictures (at your own discretion -- I won't include any here) really puts it in perspective. The entire last third of the cicada is replaced with fungus! Say goodbye to your butts and genitals, ladies and gentle-cicadas!
The fungus is called Massospora cicadina, though there are several other types of Massospora that can affect cicadas. M. cicadina pumps the cicadas full of amphetamine which makes them want to mate even more, as if cicadas weren't already more sex-obsessed than 13-year old boy in the 80s who just found his dad's stash of porno mags. Pretty much a cicada STI, don't you think? It cracks through their exoskeleton and makes their genitals fall off, just to replace them with a ball of white fungus spores!
The male cicadas get special treatment when they're infected with M. cicadina The start to exhibit the mating signs of both males and female cicadas! It's not like it matters though. Nothing will come of any attempts to mate with these infected cicadas, male or female, because they have no genitals and thus are infertile. Any and all attempts to mate are just more opportunities for the spores to spread! While there have been plenty of recipes for healthy cicadas going around during the Brood X emergence this summer, do not eat these cicadas! You should be eating the ones that have recently molted anyway -- Ones like these have way too hard of an exoskeleton and I don't imagine it would be very pleasant. (Apparently, people with seafood allergies should also stay away from cicadas just to stay safe too!) Even birds and squirrels, natural cicada predators, know to avoid Massospora-infected cicadas.
Massospora cicadina can affect both 13-year and 17-year cycle cicadas (Brood X is the 17-year cycle). The fungus was discovered to affect cicadas way back in 1850! How's that for scientific advancement, huh?