Spotted Gum on a Cicada? Congrats, You’ve Caught a Zombie!

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Champaign, IL – If you see what looks like gum on the back of a cicada, you’re in for a surprise—it’s a zombie cicada! A strange white fungus called Massospora cicadina has been detected in southern Illinois, and it’s on the move towards Chicago.

This fungus takes over male cicadas, causing their genitalia to fall off and replacing their abdomens with a chalky mass of fungal spores. These spores then spread to other cicadas, turning them into “zombies” that continue to spread the infection. The fungus has already been found in Champaign and is expected to travel north in the coming weeks.

Cicada broods are emerging across Illinois, with billions of these buzzing insects making their appearance. The infected cicadas, or “saltshakers of death,” exhibit hypersexual behavior, desperately trying to mate despite their condition. This behavior helps the fungus spread even further.

While the fungus has hallucinogenic effects on birds that eat infected cicadas, it doesn’t pose any danger to humans. However, it’s best to avoid eating cicadas with the telltale chalky substance. Despite its gruesome nature, this zombie cicada phenomenon is a fascinating and unique part of the natural world.

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