First there were killer bees, then murder hornets and now there are zombie cicadas, all because of a fungal infection that is turning the winged insects into what scientists are calling "zombie cicadas."
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The infestation was first discovered in 2021 by a West Virginia University professor, who identified the cause of the "zombie" state as the fungus Massospora, a psychedelic manipulative fungus that infects and alters the behavior of cicadas.
Brian Lovett, a postdoctoral researcher for Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, explained how the Massospora species infects cicadas by manipulating the insects’ mating cycle.
“This pathogen manipulates the behavior of cicadas such that infected males will attract uninfected males to mate with the fungus: this spreads the fungal infection,” he said. “Since the fungus is manipulating the cicadas, they are considered zombies.”