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Zombie cicadas: Psychedelic fungus manipulating cicadas, causing them to decay

Cicadas are being infected with a fungus that is essentially turning them into zombies, according to researchers at West Virginia University.

When infected with the parasitic fungus Massospora -- which contains chemicals found in hallucinogenic mushrooms -- male cicadas are manipulated into flicking their wings like females, inviting mating.

The mating invitation tempts other unsuspecting male cicadas and they then become infected, too, researchers said.

Massospora leads to the decay of part of a cicada’s body.

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They “wear away like an eraser on a pencil,” according to Brian Lovett, study co-author and post-doctoral researcher with the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

Infected cicadas are generally harmless to humans, Lovett said, and the fungus has little effect on the overall cicada population because cicadas reproduce at a high rate.