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Move Aside Murder Hornets, Zombie Cicadas Are The Hot New Nightmare Bug

Murder hornets, I now laugh in your general direction. Partially because you're on the other side of the country so I feel safe, but also because there's a new nightmare bug in town far creepier than you. 

From CBS News:

Humans aren't the only ones susceptible to the psychedelic chemicals found in magic mushrooms. "Zombie cicadas" — under the influence of a parasitic fungus — have reemerged in West Virginia to infect their friends, and now scientists have a better understanding of how it happens.

Researchers from West Virginia University recently saw the return of these bizarre creatures, which are infected with a fungus called Massospora. According to a study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, the fungus manipulates the insects to unknowingly infect other cicadas, rapidly transmitting the disease to create a zombie army of sorts.

I'm no scientist but the way I'm interpreting this is that if you live in West Virginia this is what's happening on that tree in your backyard right now:

Giphy Images.

Researchers described the gruesome details of the fungus' process as a "disturbing display of B-horror movie proportions." The spores eat away at the genitalia, butts and abdomens of the cicadas until they eventually fall off, replacing them with fungal spores — a brutal process for the insects, which just spent more than a decade underground.

The cicadas begin to decay, but rather than immediately die, they fly around and infect others. Because of the infection's mind-controlling abilities, the insects appear to behave as if nothing is wrong.

Giphy Images.

Lovett described the process as wearing "away like an eraser on a pencil." The fungi are similar to rabies — both "enlist living insects to do their bidding," researchers said — in a process called active host transmission, which is a form of "biological puppetry."

"Since we are also animals like insects, we like to think we have complete control over our decisions and we take our free will for granted," Lovett said. "But when these pathogens infect cicadas, it's very clear that the pathogen is pulling the behavioral levers of the cicada to cause it to do things which are not in the interest of the cicada but is very much in the interest of the pathogen."

1) This particular fungus contains chemicals like psilocybin which is found in hallucinogenic mushrooms. So - asking for a friend - what happens to you if you lick one of these cicadas?

2) They're dying a slow, horrible death as their danglers (bug wieners) & butts fall off but they're too busy tripping balls to pay it any mind, and the only mission in their lives is to spread their nightmare to the others by tricking them into sex. If there's any lesson to take away from this I think we can all agree: Abstinence is the only way. 

Giphy Images.