I do not like cicadas

I didn’t see much of them while I was growing up near Seattle, but then I spent a year in Indiana, where the cicadas are deafening in the summer. I learned to detest their shrill noisiness then. Now I live in Minnesota where we get the annual cicadas, but they aren’t so numerous as to generate the cacophony people have to live with elsewhere.

It’s going to be bad this summer, because two broods of the 13- and 17-year periodic cicadas are going to be crawling out simultaneously and singing continuously. There’s nothing you can do about it.

See how Minnesota is free of the Magicicada plague? I’ll be staying away from Iowa & Illinois & Indiana, that’s for sure.

Although…I do not dislike the cicadas so much that I would wish a fungal infection on them, especially not a fungus as creepy as this one.

Once the cicadas emerge from the ground, they molt into adults, and within a week to 10 days, the fungus causes the backside of their abdomens open up. A chalky, white plug erupts out, taking over their bodies and making their genitals fall off.

“The cicada continues to participate in normal activities, like it would if it was healthy,” Kasson told CBS News. “Like it tries to mate, it flies around, it walks on plants. Yet, a third of its body has been replaced by fungus. That’s really kind of bizarre.”

Kasson said the reason the cicadas might be able to ignore the fungus is that it produces an amphetamine, which could give them stamina.

“But there’s also something else unusual about it,” he said. “There’s this hyper-sexualized behavior. So, males for example, they’ll continue to try and mate with females — unsuccessfully, because again, their back end is a fungus. But they’ll also pretend to be females to get males to come to them. And that doubles the number of cicadas that an infected individual comes in contact with.”

What’s really evil about that fungus is that despite all the body horror, it doesn’t shut the cicadas up. In another bizarre twist, it also affects animals around them.

The fungus is also the type that has hallucinatory effects on birds that would eat them, Cooley said.

There’s more! Cicadas have another repulsive habit.

Bhamla in March published a study of the urination flow rates of animals across the world. Cicadas were clearly king, peeing two to three times stronger and faster than elephants and humans. He couldn’t look at the periodical cicadas that mostly feed and pee underground, but he used video to record and measure the flow rate of their Amazon cousins, which topped out around 10 feet per second (3 meters per second).

They have a muscle that pushes the waste through a tiny hole like a jet, Bhamla said. He said he learned this when in the Amazon he happened on a tree the locals called a “weeping tree” because liquid was flowing down, like the plant was crying. It was cicada pee.

“You walk around in a forest where they’re actively chorusing on a hot sunny day. It feels like it’s raining,” said University of Connecticut entomologist John Cooley. That’s their honeydew or waste product coming out the back end … It’s called cicada rain.”

I hope the residents of states south and east of me are looking forward to a summer of getting pissed on by shrieking zombie insects while the birds are tripping balls and spacing out.

All right, your ominous click-bait title worked

I clicked on 4 Black Eggs Have Surfaced From the Dark Heart of the Ocean—With Alien Creatures Inside. How could I not? Fortunately, it was a truthful title. An ROV dived 6200 meters beneath the Pacific Ocean and found strange black eggs attached to a rock, and brought some to the surface (the operators have presumably never seen a horror movie. Don’t harvest the mysterious black eggs ever, and don’t bring them back to the lab.)

“Under a stereomicroscope, I cut one of them, and a milky liquid-like thing leaked from it; after blowing the milky thing with a pipette, I found fragile white bodies in the shell and first realized that it was the cocoon of…”

It was flatworms. Platyhelminths.


Not at all Lovecraftian or scary, though.

Crow city!

At my mother’s house — there are American Crows everywhere. Big black birds that complain if humans step outside. Odin watches.

Unfortunately, I left the good camera at home and am reduced to iPhone photography.

The prey proves unable to read the mind of the predator

This is what Orcas do to Great White Sharks.

Face it, Orcas are pretty damned metal.

Let’s be honest: as much as we all love a shark, orcas are definitely in with a shout of earning the title of Most Metal Animal In The Sea. Firstly, they’re absolutely massive. Secondly, they feast on other animals. Thirdly, they wear corpsepaint. Fourthly, they’re nicknamed killer whales! The defence rests.

And don’t forget, the Orcas around Spain and Gibraltar have had enough and are out there thrashing yachts for sport.

So somebody came up with the ‘clever’ idea of trying to deter attacks by playing a death metal playlist over underwater microphones. Do you think it worked?

One unexpected tactic that is currently doing the rounds in the marine community is to blast heavy metal at the fearsome sea mammals. According to a new report in the New York Times, Captain Florian Rutsch and his crew found themselves in uncomfortably close proximity to a pod of orcas around the Iberian Peninsula earlier this month, and attempted to drive them off with a specially curated playlist of metal bangers titled Metal For Orcas. The mix included cuts by death metal mainstays such as Aborted, Dying Fetus and Ingested, and was played via an underwater speaker.

Unfortunately for the crew, it didn’t work: the orcas attacked the rudder of their catamaran, causing enough damage to leave the boat stranded and its occupants requiring rescuing via local authorities. Captain Rutsh described the situation as “scary”, adding: “No one knows what works, what doesn’t work.”

Hell no. That was a mix of music that was either going to attract them to a wild party, or was going to enrage them. If you really want to scare away Orcas, I’d recommend trying a mix of Kenny G and Enya first.

Nightmare nest

This thing is hanging in a tree near where I walk on the way to the lab. It’s bigger than my head!

That’s actually what I think when I walk by: “What if that fell off and landed on my head and I had to run around waving my arms?” A childhood watching Saturday morning cartoons has given me that expectation.