Cicada Location App for Tracking Two Buzzy Broods

Trillions of periodical cicadas will emerge from the ground this spring, bringing with them their loud buzzing and molted exoskeletons. There are two broods of periodical cicadas—those that emerge every 13 years and those that emerge every 17 years.

For most of their lives, cicadas live underground and then emerge once the soil reaches 64 degrees. This year, both the 13-year and the 17-year cicadas will emerge, arriving in numbers that have not been seen in generations. Because they are temperature-dependent, their emergences may vary depending on the location. In 2024 they are expected to emerge sometime in May or early June—the 17-year brood, in Northern Illinois; the 13-year brood, in parts of Southeastern United States.

It is uncommon to have a dual emergence, which occurs once every 221 years. The last time two broods emerged together was in 1803, when Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States, and Lewis and Clark started their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase!

The Center for IT Engagement at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati is asking the public to help in mapping the emergence of these early stragglers. To participate in the mapping project, simply download the free Cicada Safari app from the Apple app store or Google play. Then go on a safari to find periodical cicadas, photograph them, and submit the photos to Cicada Safari for verification. Once verified, the photos will be posted to the live cicada map.

Plus: These wonders of nature are useful in teaching biology, mathematics, history, and art. The Cicada Safari website offers free activities to download as handouts. For example, students can “Fold an Origami Cicada,” “Color a Periodical Cicada,” “Study Cicadas’ Nymphal Burrows,” “Find Historical Records,” and “Record Oral Histories.” The site also links to numerous free worksheets, printables, and crafts created by an edtech designer with a cicada obsession.

Students may also want to immerse themselves in Cicadapocalypse, an educational graphic novel about periodical cicadas. A bonus feature: The graphic novel includes a flip-book animation that illustrates the metamorphosis of a periodical cicada.

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