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There are at least 125,000 citizen scientists eagerly awaiting the 17-year Brood X cicadas, which is emerging in parts of 15 states as this week.
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That's how many times Mount St. Joseph University's hugely popular Cicada Safari app - which allows anyone with a Smartphone to search, photograph, video and help map the generational emergence - has been downloaded.
"Cicada Safari has become an international phenomenon," said its developer, Dr. Gene Kritsky, dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. “I have had interviews with several news outlets from the US, but also with Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The response rate is incredible. We have already received over 50,000 photographs and videos, and the emergence is only just getting started in the mid-west.”
Cicada Safari users will contribute to vital scientific research by determining the distribution of the emerging cicadas, enabling scientists to assess the status of Brood X cicadas. The app was first tested in 2019 and 2020 with smaller broods and has proven to be an effective mapping and tracking tool.
"We developed this app because so many people are fascinated by cicadas," said Dr. Kritsky, who has studied, tracked and written about cicadas throughout his academic career. "This is true citizen science. The photographs and videos submitted to our map are like voucher specimens permitting us to verify the observations, making the maps more useful for future research."
The Cicada Safari app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Dr. Kritsky worked in partnership Center for IT Engagement (cITe) at Mount St. Joseph University to create the Cicada Safari App.
From the Midwest to the eastern seaboard, the Brood X emergence will cover up to 15 states - Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania New York and New Jersey - and include the major metropolitan areas of New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington, Nashville, Columbus, Dayton and others.
Dr. Kritsky and the Mount have also launched the CicadaSafari.org website, which offers a virtual trove of cicada facts, history, facts, maps, activities and more.
Dr. Kritsky is also featured in Brood X: The Cicada Podcast, a 10-part podcast hosted by WVXU National Public Radio in Cincinnati.
A recognized cicada expert, Dr. Kritsky has given hundreds of media interviews, published academic papers on cicadas and is the author of two books on cicadas. His new book, "Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition” is published by the Ohio Biological Survey.
Following are some cicada facts from the Cicada Safari.org website:
-Cicadas emerge after the soil temperature exceeds 64 degrees, which is usually in mid-May.
-Only male cicadas sing through sound-producing structures called tymbals on either side of the abdomen under the wings.
-Cicadas do not eat solid food but do drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
-Cicadas do not sting or bite, and do not carry diseases.
-Periodical cicada years are quite beneficial to the ecology of the region. Their egg-laying in trees is a natural pruning that results in increased numbers of flowers and fruits in the succeeding years. Their emergence from the ground turns over large amounts of soil, and after they die their decaying bodies contribute a massive amount of nutrients to the soil.
-Periodical cicadas are often incorrectly called locusts. Locusts are grasshoppers and cicadas are more closely related to aphids than grasshoppers.