PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Cicadas that have been infected with the fungus Massospora have been found to unknowingly transmit the parasite to other insects, according to new research from West Virginia University.

West Virginia University researchers say that Massospora causes male cicadas to flick their wings like females.

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Flicking the wings like females serves as an invitation to mate, which brings other male cicadas close to them, and they are then infected with the fungus.

(Photo Credit: WVU Photo/Angie Macias)

Researchers say that Massospora fungus spores gnaw away at a cicada’s genitals, butt and abdomen, replacing them with fungal spores.

This then causes the spores to “wear away like an eraser on a pencil,” according to Brian Lovett, study co-author and post-doctoral researcher with the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

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The study also noted that while cicada sounds can be very disturbing to humans, infected decaying cicadas are generally harmless.

The study noted as well that cicadas reproduce at a high rate, that the fungus isn’t expected to have an effect on their overall population.

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Click here to read more about the study.