Cicada Mania

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Cicada T-shirts

May 1, 2024

Share your fungus infected cicadas with Matt Kasson, PhD, please

Filed under: Community Science | Massospora | Matt Kasson — Dan @ 6:59 pm

Massospora cicadina is a fungus that infects Magicicada cicadas. They contract it when they are still in the soil, and then spread it during sex as adults. It contains amphetamine and it sends the cicadas into a mating frenzy. It makes males behave like female cicadas. It replaces their butt-ends with a white chalky fungal substance.

Massospora bae

Matt Kasson, PhD, of West Virginia University wants you to share the fungus-infected cicadas with him.
If you post a photo of a Massospora-infected cicada on iNaturalist, tag him @mperfectfunguy.
If you post a photo of the same thing on Twitter, tag him @ImperfectFunGuy.
Got a sack of fungus-infected cicadas? He might want them.

Here’s the text from his post on Twitter/X:

‼️ ATTENTION ‼️ It’s #EarthDay2024 and we need your help finding / collecting Massospora-infected zombie cicadas for research so please share and RT! Illustration????by Molly Sherlock.

If you somehow missed it, trillions of cicadas are beginning their emergence across the Midwest and Southern U.S. This is a rare double emergence of both 13-year and 17-year cicadas, both of which are known hosts of the zombie cicada fungus, Massospora cicadina!

We are hoping to collect many infected cicadas as possible, especially infected 13-year cicadas as we only have three total specimens in our collection and none from Brood XIX.

The best way to help is to upload your observations in either
. You can also tag me in Massospoara cicadina iNat posts (
). DMs are also open here for inquiries about next steps.

Receiving a heads up is as important as receiving actual specimens so no observation is insignificant.

Look for a chalky white fungal plug of M. cicadina emerging from the back of the abdomen on infected adults. Unlike many insect pathogens, Massospora does not kill its host so you will observe infected cicadas among a larger population of healthy cicadas.

He’s worth following on Twitter/X because it posts a lot of wild photos and illustrations like this.

More about Massospora:

Massospora papers:

April 29, 2024

Cicada t-shirt of the day: Massospora Activated

Filed under: Cicada Mania | Massospora — Dan @ 7:57 pm

Another cicada t-shirt that you can buy is Massospora Activated!

MASSOSPORA activated

What is the meaning of this?! Well, Magicicada periodical cicadas contract a fungus called Massospora cicadina during sexual contact. It turns their rumps into a white chalky mess and sends them into a mating frenzy.

Learn more about Massospora cicadina:

March 29, 2020

Dead Specimens – Brood II Magicicada from Middlesex County, New Jersey (2013)

Filed under: Brood II | Magicicada | Massospora | Photos & Illustrations — Tags: , — Dan @ 10:03 am

Photos of dead specimens from the Brood II Magicicada emergence in Middlesex County, NJ, in 2013.

Brood II Magicada collection from 2013:
Brood II Magicada collection from 2013 2

Brood II Magicada collection from 2013:
Brood II Magicada collection from 2013 2

Comparison of Male and Female Magicicada genitalia:
Comparison of Male and Female Magicicada

Magicicada septendecula female abdomen:
Magicicada septendecula female abdomen

Magicicada septendecim hind wing:
Magicicada septendecim hind wing

Male Magicicada septendecim infected with Massospora cicadina fungus:
Male Magicicada septendecim infected with Massospora cicadina fungus

August 23, 2018

Cordyceps infected Citrus Cicadas

Filed under: Cordyceps | Diceroprocta | Matt Kasson — Tags: — Dan @ 9:44 am

Here’s another fungi story coming from the WVU Kasson Lab: Cordyceps infected Citrus Cicadas (Diceroprocta apache).

The story goes like this: because of Ed Yong’s article about the Massospora fungus that infects cicadas, someone sent the Kasson Lab photos, and then samples, of Diceroprocta apache (Citrus Cicadas) infected with a different type of fungus: Cordyceps. Looks like the lab is going to study this fungus, and I’m sure they’ll produce a paper.

Ophiocordyceps infected Cicada Killer Wasp

Filed under: Cicada Killer Wasps | Matt Kasson | Ophiocordyceps — Dan @ 9:02 am

Graduate students at the West Virginia University’s Kasson Laboratory discovered a Cicada Killer Wasp (Sphecius speciosus) infected with Ophiocordyceps (a type of fungi). Ophiocordyceps can also infect cicadas.

July 25, 2018

Discovery of psychoactive plant & mushroom alkaloids in ancient fungal cicada pathogens

Filed under: Massospora | Matt Kasson — Dan @ 4:22 pm

Many cicada species suffer from fungal pathogens belonging to the genus Massospora. These fungi destroy the reproductive organs of males and cause them to behave like female cicadas — in the case of Magicicada cicadas, they flick their wings instead of singing — and they attempt to mate with other males, thus spreading the fungus.

A new paper has been published titled Discovery of psychoactive plant & mushroom alkaloids in ancient fungal cicada pathogens. Authors: Greg Boyce, Emile Gluck-Thaler, Jason C. Slot, Jason E. Stajich, William J. Davis, Tim Y. James, John R. Cooley, Daniel G. Panaccione, Jorgen Eilenberg, Henrik H. De Fine Licht, Angie M. Macias, Matthew C. Berger, Kristen L. Wickert, Cameron M. Stauder, Ellie J. Spahr, Matthew D. Maust, Amy M. Metheny, Chris Simon, Gene Kritsky, Kathie T. Hodge, Richard A. Humber, Terry Gullion, Dylan P. G. Short, Teiya Kijimoto, Dan Mozgai, Nidia Arguedas, Matthew T. Kasson. You can access it on biorxiv.

This new paper makes discoveries about the fungi.


Entomopathogenic fungi routinely kill their hosts before releasing infectious conidia, but select species keep their hosts alive while sporulating to enhance spore dispersal. Recent expression and metabolomics studies involving host-killing entomopathogens have helped unravel infection processes and host responses, yet the mechanisms underlying active host transmission in insects with Entomophthoralean fungal infections are completely unexplored. Here we report the discovery, through global and targeted metabolomics supported by metagenomics and proteomics, of the plant amphetamine, cathinone, in Massospora cicadina-infected periodical cicadas, and the mushroom tryptamine, psilocybin, in M. platypediae- and M. levispora-infected annual cicadas. The neurogenic activities of these alkaloids provide a hypothetical framework for a chemically induced extended phenotype of Massospora that alters cicada behavior by increasing endurance and suppressing feeding prior to death.

Massospora bae

January 23, 2018

New paper: Massospora cicadina hijacks the sexual signals of periodical cicadas

A new paper, A specialized fungal parasite (Massospora cicadina) hijacks the sexual signals of periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada), has been published by John R. Cooley, David C. Marshall & Kathy B. R. Hill, in Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 1432 (2018).

Read the paper online.

In a nutshell: the fungus infects males and causes them to exactly mimic the mating behavior of female cicadas, thus infected males end up spreading the fungus to uninfected males.


Male periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) infected with conidiospore-producing (“Stage I”) infections of the entomopathogenic fungus Massospora cicadina exhibit precisely timed wing-flick signaling behavior normally seen only in sexually receptive female cicadas. Male wing-flicks attract copulation attempts from conspecific males in the chorus; close contact apparently spreads the infective conidiospores. In contrast, males with “Stage II” infections that produce resting spores that wait for the next cicada generation do not produce female-specific signals. We propose that these complex fungus-induced behavioral changes, which resemble apparently independently derived changes in other cicada-Massospora systems, represent a fungus “extended phenotype” that hijacks cicadas, turning them into vehicles for fungus transmission at the expense of the cicadas’ own interests.

And now, because I need an image for the post: a meme:

Fungus Bae

Cicadas, when infected, are called “salt shakers of doom”. Add that to the meme “Salt Bae”, and the image makes sense.

October 8, 2017

Cicada Fungi Research

Filed under: Massospora | Matt Kasson — Dan @ 5:37 pm

Magicicada septendecim with Massosporan fungus found at the Edison Memorial Tower Park in Edison NJ
A “Salt-Shaker of Death”. (Deadly for the cicada, not humans.)

Many types of fungi will eat cicadas, but one type — the Massospora — specifically infests and destroys cicada genitalia. Specifically, Massospora cicadina attacks Magicicada cicadas, and Massospora levispora attacks Okanagana rimosa. According to the website MycoBank Database, there’s at least 19 species of Massospora. By the names of some, you can guess which cicada it infects; Massospora diceroproctae likely infects Diceroprocta cicadas.

It’s not certain, but there are sure to be many more species of Massospora fungi — if not one for each species, perhaps approximately one for each genus. Considering that Massospora infects cicadas all around the world, it’s fair to assume that Massospora has been infecting cicadas for many millions of years.

At West Virginia University, Matt Kasson & his team are studying Massospora, and are looking for samples of cicadas with these infections. Matt regularly Tweets photos and finding such as this one of spores from a Platypedia cicada:

If you have some samples of such cicadas and are willing to part with them, let Matt know.

June 27, 2015

What eats cicadas?

Filed under: FAQs | Massospora — Dan @ 1:32 pm

What eats cicadas? A better question is: what doesn’t eat cicadas?

Pretty much every creature with a mouth will eat a cicada, given the chance. Even organisms without mouths like fungi will consume cicadas.

People, pets, rodents, marsupials, reptiles, birds, fish, insects, arachnids — virtually any creature will eat them.

Some insects are known for specifically preying on cicadas, for example, Cicada Killer Wasps are well known for capturing cicadas for their larvae to eat them.

What eats them when they’re underground? When they’re underground they’re often eaten by moles and other furry insectivores, but enough of them escape the moles for the species to survive.

Read are cicadas safe to eat if you’re planning a cicada buffet.

November 19, 2014

Which fungus attacks Magicicadas? Massospora cicadina

Filed under: FAQs | Magicicada | Massospora | Matt Kasson — Dan @ 8:32 pm

The fungus Massospora cicadina preys on Magicicadas cicadas. This is particularly interesting because the fungus is able to prey upon them in spite of their long 17 year life cycle (apparently fungi are not phased by prime numbers).

When the fungus destroys the abdomen of male cicadas, they will behave like female cicadas and flick their wings in response to the songs of male cicadas, and attempt to mate with other males.

A photo by Roy Troutman from Brood XIV (2008):

Magicicada with Massospora. Roy Troutman. Brood XIV.

Two photos by Dan Mozgai from Brood II (2013):

Male Magicicada septendecim infected with Massospora cicadina fungus

Magicicada septendecim with Massosporan fungus found at the Edison Memorial Tower Park in Edison NJ

Magicicada fungus (massospora cicadina)

magicicada fungus (massospora cicadina) from Roy Troutman on Vimeo.

New from 2017: the Massospora cicadina viewed under a microscope.

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Cicada T-shirts

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