Mount Hood

Cicadas broods infected with Massospora fungus

Written by: Jaylin Hardin | Sports Editor

In late spring and early summer across the south and midwest, two broods of cicadas, XIX and XIII, will be hatching simultaneously. Cicada broods typically hatch every 13 and 17 years — for brood XIX and brood XIII, respectively — and the last time these broods hatched at the same time was 1803, making this an entomological phenomenon. All seven cicada species will be represented in both broods this year — it won’t be until 2037 that all seven are represented again.

Jason Bittel from the “Washington Post” had the opportunity to sit down with experts on cicada life cycles. 

“It’s pretty spectacular, from the standpoint of a scientist that’s interested in cicadas,” said Matt Kasson, a mycologist at West Virginia University. Mycologists focus on the study of fungi and how they are spread. 

This time around, scientists hope to investigate and uncover the mysteries around a parasitic fungus that affects adult cicadas. The fungus, called Massospora cicadina, affects only the Magicicada species, also known as periodical cicadas because of the broods’ hatching periods.

Infection of the cicadas first occurs when they emerge from their broods; spores attach themselves to their abdomens and begin to grow.  

When the fungus’ spores infect a cicada, its body is flooded with amphetamine and psilocybin, and its lower abdomen along with reproductive organs are replaced with the fungus. The fungus takes on a chalky white appearance, leading scientists to call them “saltshakers of death.” 

The presence of amphetamine and psilocybin in the cicada’s body changes the insects’ behavior. The most common behavior change in cicadas is hypersexuality. Additionally, during the mating cycle of the cicada’s life, infected male cicadas don’t only mate with female cicadas — they mimic the mating patterns of female cicadas so other males will mate with them.  

This pattern of behavior in infected male cicadas causes the fungus to be sexually transmitted, to males and females alike. However, it is less prevalent in females than it is in males. 

“Periodical cicadas have interlocking genitalia. So when they pull apart, guess what happens? Rip. And then there’s a cicada walking around with someone else’s genitals stuck to them,” said Dr. John Cooley, an associate professor in residence of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, Hartford, “…and now the cicada that’s infected is busted open.”

While also studying the habits of these infected cicadas, scientists like Kasson and Cooley are hoping to research the use of the fungus in the field of medicine. M. cicadina is used in cultures in China and among New Zealand’s Maori as a traditional medicine for inflammation.

There is a positive side to the emergence of cicada broods, however. Cicada emergences have had ecological benefits, providing an array of protein for predators, as well as boosts in phosphorus and nitrogen for plant life, thanks to trillions of decaying insect bodies.

“If you’re out during this year’s emergence and your dog or toddler happens to gulp down a cicada or three, don’t worry about it,” said Maureen Turcatel, collections manager of insects at the Field Museum in Chicago. “Cicadas can’t bite or sting, and they are perfectly edible.”

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Western’s boil water notice

Written by: Libby Thoma | Staff Writer

On Wednesday, April 17, Western released an email stating that a water main break on campus affected the following buildings: Administration, The Cottage, ITC, Maple Hall, Campbell Hall, Bellamy Hall, Academic Programs Support Center and the Advising Center. 

Drinking water in said buildings was not guaranteed to be safe and was sent off to be tested to ensure safe potability levels. The aforementioned buildings were then put under a 24-hour boil water notice, ordered by the City of Monmouth. 

A water main break occurs when the water main, the service line maintained by the city to ensure clean water is delivered to taps, acquires a hole or a crack, allowing surrounding soil and other contaminants to seep in. Contaminants include but are not limited to debris and bacteria. To fix this issue, the pipe is dug up and repaired or replaced, water quality is tested to ensure safety and the hole is patched up. 

The waters were said to be okay for handwashing — just not drinking. Hand sanitizers and water bottles were placed in the affected buildings for extra caution during those 24 hours. These buildings were closed due to safety concerns, causing classes to be canceled and faculty, staff and students to be evacuated. On Thursday, April 18, Western released that the test returned and that the water from the affected buildings was safe to drink. The boil water notice was subsequently lifted.  

If this occurs again, it is important to limit water use as contaminated water can put one at risk for waterborne diseases. Water filters such as Brita are only for filtering potable drinking water, so before a safety — potability notice — it is recommended to drink other liquids or bottled water and shower as little as possible. 

There is no need to worry, as of April 18, the water is officially safe to drink.

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Not who I knew

Written by: Jaylin Hardin | Sports Editor

Content warning: gun violence, murder

We all have a friend who has been close to us for years. For me, it was a boy named Alex. Alex and I met during our junior year of high school during football season. He had just transferred from the 6A school in our area and was on the football team. I was the football team manager. I don’t really remember our first meeting in all honesty. 

Alex and I became fast friends and then like siblings. We were tight. 90% of my Snapchat memories from Senior year are from that f—-r either sleeping or pulling some shenanigans in class. He was especially close with my mom, sometimes even preferring to hang out with her over me when we’d fight over petty s–t.

Alex didn’t always have the best life. His biological mother abandoned him, and his adoptive family kicked him out as soon as he was 18. But, we still tried our best to stay in contact, even with our busy schedules, me with school and work, him sometimes out of service for months working for Grayback Forestry.

The last time I heard from him was Aug. 14, when he warned me about a fire that was close to Salem. My last two texts have remained unread since. Ten days prior, he had done the unthinkable.

I didn’t know about it until recently, maybe two weeks ago, only a few days after his arrest. My mom had called me and told me the news — she had found out from her former coworker. The world spun constantly that day.

Information on what happened is limited. I can’t even find the full story, but, from what I understand, Alex was somewhere he should not have been with some friends he should not have been with. Their day out ended with shooting someone and then to ensure he was dead, ran him over with their truck. His “friends” had been arrested almost immediately — it took them longer to connect Alex to the crime. The idiot had sent texts about covering up the crime and had photos of the victim’s firearm on his phone.

I think I cried all day that day. I was angry and felt like I failed my friend, like I didn’t do enough to help him. His last texts to me were looking out for me. I don’t think when the police searched his phone they even read my messages. They are still unread.

For me, the hardest thing is finding out someone you would trust with your life could do something so horrible. Alex was the person I trusted everything with in high school, the person who knew almost everything about me. We walked together at graduation. He is my brother. 

Finding out what he did was the worst. 

This is not the Alex I know. 

The Alex I know is sweet and funny. He makes smart decisions and has a somewhat steady head on his shoulders. 

At the same time, it terrifies me. What if this is truly who he is and he had just hidden it all this time? What if I had done more to help him stay on track and out of trouble?

My mom feels like she failed him too. Alex had been in her ERC — Educational Resource Center — classroom for his ADHD and that is mostly where their bond formed — where she developed her maternal feelings toward him. She still calls him her kid. 

This is not the Alex she knows either.

As I sit here on my laptop, staring at what he is being charged with, I am sobbing. This was my best friend and now he is someone I no longer know.

So far, he has had two court dates, one for the first three initial charges: second-degree murder, criminal conspiracy and aggravated assault. There was a second court date adding on two more charges: hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence. My high school best friend is being charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor.

I am not sitting here and telling this story without a purpose or a reason. Part of me wanted to share this because I know, somewhere out there, people are going through the same thing. Their brother or sister or father or mother has done something unspeakable and they don’t know how to feel. Sometimes it’s horror, sometimes it’s pain.

I also wanted to highlight how unexpected life can really be and how it changes people. I had gone weeks without thinking about Alex and this news suddenly came up and rocked my world. I was not expecting it at all. And I think in a way, him not answering my texts was almost how he could avoid having people close to him questioned about his character by the police. His way of trying to keep the people close to him out of this.

I still feel angry at my friend. I feel sad. I will not get him back for years and when I do, he will be a completely changed person, and so will I because of his actions. He will be hardened, brittle and angry. I will likely be a wife and a mother by the time he is released. And when he is, I will still be there to support him and hopefully get him on his feet. 

No matter the stupid things he does, Alex is my brother and best friend. He always will be, murder charges will never change that. Especially when I think about the situation he had to be in to do such a thing.

Alex will always be my brother. 

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