Massospora and You

I found this cicada in the Taiwan forest, hanging out on a branch, dead. Apparently infected with Massospora, he was eaten by the fungus from the outside in, leaving this empty exoskeleton, wings, and the dried fungal body oozing out from all of his cracks.

The cicadas in Taiwan were of two obvious phenotypes: the car alarm type – LOUD! ALARMING! 24/7! (but you get used to it rather quickly) – and the Rainbird type – cchh-cchh-cchh-cchh ccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! These were in the mountains and the city, respectively. I enjoyed them immensely.

Here’s a batch of the Car Alarm variety (as yet without a real species, but I’ll get them identified eventually) in my field pinning station – the desk in my dorm:

Collecting in the subtropics is not like what I’m used to. In the PNW, specimens are sometimes dry before I can get a pin in them, and I rarely use any type of preservative beyond periodic deep freezing of specimen boxes to kill dermestids. In Asia, however, the humidity is such that nothing dries. During pinning, the cicada’s legs would be flopping around, which is mildly unsettling. Then I’d get everyone pinned and placed and run them through the oven for a few days, take them out, and they’d all slack out on me again. Sadly, this cycle resulted in an interesting sweet, rot smell. Now that the collect is back in the states and everyone’s dry, they still stink. But I love them anyway.

Part of the stink may be the various Hemipterans and Coleoptera perfumes – some smelled like cucumbers, some like oily death. That could be such an interesting addition to the Linnaean games: identify the insect by smell. I’d know what bees smell like, and bumblebees and honeybees smell completely different, but that’s probably information most other people aren’t terribly interested in.

In anticipation of the collection being seized at security, immigration, or customs as I went through 3 airports to get home with my drying lovelies in my carry-on, I photographed them carefully.

Alas, I did make it home with the bugs feeling like I was drug running even though I had all my permissions in order. It only takes one officious asshole to destroy 4 days of collecting and careful preservation from an exotic locale. I was ingratiating and extremely cooperative every time I interacted with airport personnel.


(Click the collection image and then zoom-click to see everyone up close and personal. If you have ID information, I’d love it if you’d share it. Thanks!)



I’m home and miss the breakfast gruel porridge already: rice, hot soy milk, and sweet potato.  The island I visited was Taiwan, and breakfast was sometimes steamed buns filled with pork and served with fresh soy milk, or it was traditional Chinese fare (that is to say, not so different from lunch or dinner) and fresh soy milk.

More posts are coming, with pictures, but I just wanted to tell you right now that porridge for breakfast is apparently global.