Cicada Safari app lets you aid scientific research

Posted at 10:56 AM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 10:56:34-04

CINCINNATI — Cicadas, with their maddening noise and creepy red eyes, are due to emerge in parts of Ohio this year.

Luckily, they shouldn't be appearing anywhere near Cincinnati. But anyone with a smart phone can help researchers study the insects wherever they emerge, thanks to a new app released by Mount St. Joseph University.

Gene Kritsky, the dean of behavioral and natural sciences at MSJ, has studied cicadas throughout his academic career. He worked with the university to create the Cicada Safari app, which allows users to mark locations where they see cicadas, and even share photos, to help map the emergence of the 17-year Brood VIII cicadas.

The brood is expected to begin emerging in West Virginia, northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania in mid-May, according to Kritsky.

"Periodical cicadas are bugs of history," he said. "They are generational events, and many people use the emergence to mark the passage of time, recall key events in their lives and just remember where they were and what they were doing the last time the cicadas came out."

Cicadas emerge after the soil temperature warms past 64 degrees, which usually comes in mid-May, according to Kritsky. While many people find them to be gross, the insects do not sting, bite or carry diseases, he said.

Periodical cicadas are actually beneficial to the ecology of a region, Kritsky said. Their egg-laying in trees results in more fruits in following years. Their emergence from the ground turns over soil, and their decaying bodies add nutrients to the soil.

The Cicada Safari app will help researchers like Kritsky map the cicadas of Brood VIII and contribute to their future research.

"We developed this app because so many people are fascinated by cicadas," he said. "This is true citizen science. People can use their phones with our app to track, photograph and help us map the cicadas to verify where they are emerging."

Cicada Safari is free and available in the App Store and Google Play.