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Cicadapocalypse Returns To The US

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2024’s Apocalypse Bingo Card can put a big fat cross through "insect invasion" as two mega-broods of cicadas are about to synchronize their uprising in America for the first time in 221 years. 


Brood XIII makes an appearance every 17 years, while Brood XIX pops up every 13 years. This year, they’re going to have to learn to share, as they’ll be wriggling topside together.


When it’s time for cicadas to emerge, they wriggle from where they’ve been lurking in the ground for over a decade and shed their exoskeletons. The once-in-their-lifetime event is what has to happen so that they can reproduce, and it’s a short-lived mass orgy that unfortunately isn’t excused from the threat of sexually transmitted pathogens.


A fungus called Massospora cicadina is well-known among the scientific community, an opportunistic pathogen that crashes the cicada orgy and spreads from insect to insect via sexual contact. Effectively an STI, the fungus can spread from an infected female to other cicadas as they attempt to copulate.


“It’s a sexually transmitted fungus,” said John Lill, a cicada expert and chair of biology at George Washington University, to IndyStar. “They engage in normal courtship behavior, yet their abdomen is a big fungal mass. Instead, the attempted copulation results in spreading the fungus even more.”


It’s a different beast to the fungi that inspired The Last Of Us, but it’s still a mind-altering one that changes the cicadas behaviors. Infected males will sing for female mates, but they’ll also flap their wings, which attracts males. As the fungus continues to eat away at the cicada’s reproductive organs, the insect will pass it on to every other cicada they encounter. Eventually, the eating away becomes so severe the cicada’s butt actually falls off. 


Lucky you for landing on this Earth at just the right time to see it all unfold in real time. Popcorn at the ready, chaps.


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Insect wings may inspire the creation of new self-cleaning technologies for items such as solar panels and car windshields.

Cicadas, geckos, and lotus plants have evolved to possess water-repellant, waxy surfaces that encourage morning dew to form perfect, round droplets. These droplets roll off the surfaces of insect wings and plant leaves, effectively removing contaminants. Similar techniques could be employed to enhance the design and performance of coatings for solar panels, car windshields, and biosensors.


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