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West Virginia researchers studying 'zombie cicadas'

The "zombies" are missing parts of their bodies, but that doesn't stop them from flying around like regular cicadas.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Move over "murder hornets"!

Some parts of the country, including Indiana, are hearing the sounds of cicadas. The insects appear every few years, fly around and make a loud noise.

Recently, researchers at West Virginia University have discovered a new kind of cicada, which they call "zombies."

The so-called "zombie cicadas" get their name because they are missing part of their bodies. Yet the zombies still fly around, just like the regular cicadas.

Researchers think the zombies are only a small percent of the cicada population and it may be caused by disease. So far, researchers aren't sure how the insects initially become infected, but there is evidence the zombies spread the disease to others.

"I think it'd be really useful to understand these things because this is just one example of a fungal parasite that infects an insect and there are many others like it," said researcher Matt Kasson. "If we kind of unlock what's happening in this system, we can use it kind of as a model for understanding how these other fungi attack and kill insects."