As a wildlife photographer, I often find myself fascinated by the remarkable and often mysterious creatures that inhabit our world. Recently, I had the unique opportunity to photograph a peculiar phenomenon right on my own deck here in Arkansas – a Cicada Without A Body. Curiosity led me to delve deeper into the intriguing story behind these unusual creatures, which are commonly referred to as Zombie Cicadas.
Zombie Cicadas – Victims of Fungal Infection:
Upon researching this peculiar sight, I discovered that Cicadas with missing abdomens are typically victims of a fungal infection caused by a pathogen known as Massospora. These infections are often found in mature Cicadas, which have a relatively short lifespan of just a few weeks. While the loss of their digestive and reproductive systems would prove fatal to most creatures, Cicadas can endure this condition for a surprising duration.
Unusual Behavior and Death Sentence:
The fungal infection causes Zombie Cicadas to display erratic behavior, such as excessive jumping and twitching. These once graceful creatures become unwitting participants in the spread of the pathogen. As the infection progresses, the Cicadas lose their abdomens, rendering them incapable of both mating and feeding. Ultimately, the lack of vital bodily functions leads to their demise.
Vector for Fungal Spread:
What makes this phenomenon particularly intriguing is the role the infected Cicadas play as vectors for the fungal pathogen. The term “zombie cicadas” has been coined due to their zombie-like behavior and their function in spreading the infection. The fungus manipulates the Cicadas’ behavior, compelling them to engage in actions that enhance the pathogen’s dispersal. This includes climbing high into vegetation and spreading spores, infecting other unsuspecting Cicadas in the process.
The Cicada’s Resilience:
Despite the grim fate that awaits Zombie Cicadas, their plight serves as a testament to the resilience of these remarkable insects. Nature has equipped Cicadas with an incredible ability to adapt and survive, even in the face of parasitic infections. While their lifespan may be short-lived, they play a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems, providing sustenance for various predators and enriching the soil when they eventually pass away.
Encountering the Zombie Cicada on my own deck in Arkansas was a mesmerizing experience that reminded me of the intricate web of life that surrounds us. The strange and somewhat eerie behavior exhibited by these infected Cicadas highlights the remarkable mechanisms of nature, where even parasites can manipulate their hosts for their own survival. Through the lens of my camera, I captured a glimpse into the enigmatic world of the Zombie Cicadas, a testament to the wondrous and sometimes perplexing phenomena found in the natural world.
- Camera: Canon EOS R5
- Lens: RF100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM
- Location: My Yard (Arkansas)
- Date and Time Taken: July 5, 2022 (08:51 A. M.)
- Exposure Mode: Manual
- Aperture: f7.1
- Shutter speed: 1/500
- ISO: 640 (Auto)
- Exposure Compensation: +1/2
- Focal Length: 500 mm