We're getting ready for Cicadapocalypse 2024 and learning more about the critters as it gets closer.

Cicadas are pretty much getting ready to take over the country. A once-in-a-lifetime double brood emergence across the Midwest and a good chunk of the country means we are likely going to be sweeping dead cicadas off of our sidewalks this summer.

One thing that adds to the ick is that cicadas defend themselves by squirting pee at what they perceive as enemies, which can often include humans.

But as NBC Chicago reports, we're learning something else about the bug. And it's even weirder.

Cicadas Can Become "The Walking Dead"

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
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University of Connecticut entomologist John Cooley told NBC Chicago that cicadas are prone to a "sexually transmitted zombie disease".

I'm sorry, what?

Cooley has seen this problem especially in Midwest cicadas, with up to 10% of the population being infected with it.

This fungus is absolutely bonkers. It makes birds hallucinate if they eat it. Basically, the way it works in cicadas is this: the white fungus takes over the male, rips off their gonads, and forms chalky spores in its place that spread to other cicadas. They're sterilized but not killed.

But wait, there's more.

Scientific American says that the fungus infects Brood X, which is one of the broods emerging this spring. When a female is infected, she too loses her reproductive parts and the male that infected her takes those with him.

Once infected, the cicadas don't care about eating, sleeping, or any other normal functions. They are only focused on spreading the fungus, which is called Massospora cicadina. 

One chemical in the STD fungus is the same one that's in hallucinogenic mushrooms.

While not every cicada we see this spring and summer will be walking around on a months-long trip, it's a good bet that we could hear one that is lowkey listening to Grateful Dead.

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