Get ready for sex-crazed zombie cicadas known as ‘flying salt shakers of death’

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First there were murder hornets — now get ready for sex-crazed zombie cicadas dubbed “flying salt shakers of death.”

A psychedelic fungus that eats away the genitals of cicadas turns them sex-mad to help spread it further — and the zombie insects are reportedly expected among Brood X that is emerging in New York.

The fungus, Massospora cicadina — which has chemicals similar to hallucinogenic mushrooms — infect the insects during the 13 to 17 years they spend underground, scientists at West Virginia University have said.

Once they emerge above ground as adults, the cicadas lose the back part of their bodies, including their butts and genitals — but appear completely oblivious, the researchers previously told Science Daily.

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Not only do the winged insects behave as if nothing is wrong, the fungus makes them try to mate with everything they encounter to help spread it further.

They “engage in hypersexual behaviors,” the university’s assistant professor of forest pathology, Matt Kasson, told Science Daily in 2019.

“They are zombies in the sense that the fungus is in control of their bodies,” he said.

The cicadas — unable to reproduce — instead spread the fungus with air spores looking like salt falling as they beat their wings, leading to the “flying salt shakers of death” nickname.

Scientists have studied the Massospora’s effects on cicadas since the mid-19th century, but are looking with renewed interest because of the emergence of Brood X, the university’s Brian Lovett told The Washington Post this week.

While fewer than 10 percent are likely to be infected, that will still be a lot given that trillions are expected to emerge across New York and 14 other states.

Lovett told The Washington Post that people should not expect to get a buzz from eating the infected insects.

“The amount of these behavior-modifying chemicals are enough to affect a cicada,” Lovett said. “But if you were to eat them, it would be such a tiny dose that you wouldn’t be able to feel anything.”

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However, Kasson previously told Science Daily that it was a “maybe” if you were “motivated enough” — while warning, “There are other compounds that might be harmful to humans. I wouldn’t take that risk.”

He said that his research into the sex-crazed creatures made him “love them.”

“They still scare me when they fall down my shirt or walk up my neck but I can appreciate something that spends almost two decades underground for six weeks of bliss, with or without the fungus,” he told the outlet. 

Click here to read more of the New York Post

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