For some of us, the thought of biting into a cicada, six legs and all, is revolting — be it deep-fried or dipped in chocolate. But many other animals, from dogs to fish to raccoons, pounce at the chance to snack on these winged insects, and they are eagerly digging in as billions of Brood X cicadas erupt across parts of the eastern US and Midwest. No toppings necessary.
For pet pooches, the crunchy critters may offer a reprieve from their dull, daily dog food. Some canines are so cicada-crazy, in fact, that their owners have to muzzle them while taking them outside, for fear they might swallow too many of them and suffer from gastrointestinal problems.
Some Brood X cicadas will be sex-crazed zombies with disintegrating butts
All Brood X cicadas want to do is mate and die in peace — is that so much to ask? Unfortunately, a number of the now-emerging cicadas may instead find themselves the victims of a zombifying fungus that transforms their butts into spore-shedding “fungal gardens.”
Cicadas Fall Prey to a Psychedelic-Producing Fungus That Makes Their Butts Fall Off
Massospora fungus lurks in the soil until the cicadas emerge from the ground, Kasson tells Coral Murphy Marcos at the Guardian. When the cicada nymphs emerge from underground, some ingest the fungus, and the fungus is activated by a hormone from the cicada. Once inside, the Massospora consumes the inside of the cicada and grows until it cracks through the bug’s exoskeleton. Their genitals fall off and get replaced by a big white ball of spores.
The fungus has a special effect on male cicadas. Massospora-filled males continue to sing to attract female mates, but they also perform the same wing-flicking that females do to males to signal they’re ready to mate. Without genitals, none of their attempts to pair up will result in offspring.
Although some people eat healthy cicadas, experts do not recommend eating the cicadas for the fungus and its drugs. For one thing, Kasson tells the Guardian, the cathinone and psilocybin are just two of a thousand compounds that they found in the fungus-infected cicadas. For another, most people who eat cicadas tend to harvest those that have recently molted. (Entomologists described them as tasting buttery and nutty like asparagus to Mark Kennedy at the Associated Press.)