Cicadas are all over the U.S., including my desert city, so when news spread about a psychedelic fungus infecting some of them, I had only one question: How many do I need to eat so I can have a good time?
I’m not alone, either — people online have been tossing around the idea of a cicada-induced buzz for months now, but nobody seems to have earnestly tried it.
The fungus is called Massospora, and while people have known about it for a while, its effects are a relatively new discovery. Let me tell you, it does some strange things: First, it makes cicadas’ asses fall off, so it can take their place. Second, it produces cathinone, an amphetamine, in some cicadas and psilocybin, the same psychedelic chemical in shrooms, in others. Third, the cathinone or psilocybin make the affected cicadas fuck extra hard, as if they’d been edging for the past 17 years (that’s how long a cicada nymph spends underground before it emerges as a flying beast).
Interestingly, males infected by Massospora not only continue to mate with females, but they also perform the same wing-flicking maneuver that lady cicadas do to captivate man suitors. In short, Massospora seems to make cicadas bisexual. But no matter the pairing, the pounding doesn’t result in babies, since the asses, where the bug’s genitalia would normally be, are no longer there. Instead, the Massospora spreads like an STI.
While that’s cool and all, what I’m mostly interested in is getting high on the endless supply of cicadas in my area (so maybe I can have my own wild bang sesh). What’s the worst that could happen if I snack on a few, anyway? People eat cicadas all over the world, from Mexico to Thailand to high-end restaurants all across the U.S. So, can it be done?
Unfortunately, experts don’t recommend it. For one, fungal evolution researcher Jason Slot says it’s possible that eating infected cicadas could expose dumbasses like me to other toxins that Massospora may produce — it’s still very much a mystery fungus, and because it only pops up in the wild for a few weeks each year, we’re not entirely sure what else is in it. “The fungus has only been successfully cultured in the lab once or twice in the distant past, and it’s very expensive to do so,” he adds. What’s more is that predators, like squirrels and birds, appear to avoid Massospora-infected cicadas, so that’s telling.
The other big(ger) problem is that the amount of cathinone or psilocybin in an infected cicada is extremely small, not enough to get me high unless I went on a ravenous cicada-munching rampage. “Hundreds of thousands of infected cicadas would be required for an effective dose of psilocybin,” Slot says.
While bad news for my present yearning for a wild trip, there may still be hope for getting high on Massospora. In 2019, one amateur mushroom cultivator on the Shroomery message board claims to have preserved the fungus from an infected cicada. “I’ve consumed different extracts of the culture in different ways, and overall it feels like a really nice tonic,” they write. “I’m not game to try the live culture, though: I don’t wanna turn into a zombie!” They’ve been silent ever since, however, so perhaps the worst did happen.
Well, now that my questions have been answered, I guess I better get going. I’ve got a couple hundred thousand cicadas to catch, after all.