It would be a shame if we didn’t talk about cicadas right now. Everyone is talking about cicada brood x right now. It wouldn’t be right not to feature citizen science opportunities about our emerging friends.
Brood X is one of the biggest and most widespread, but will not be seen by everyone, but don’t worry – there’s probably a brood coming your way soon enough. If you live in an area that cicadas don’t visit, it’s still a chance to educate your community on what’s happening in another area of the country that they might not experience firsthand.
Cicadas hatch and emerge from the ground, climb up to a vertical surface and then shed their exoskeleton to reveal their winged adult form. They leave behind their creepy shells, to mate and die in the last few weeks of their life. Life cycles last for either 13 or 17 years, most of it dormant underground. They have many predators – including humans – but females lay 200-400 eggs at a time to fight the odds and survive as a species. They don’t sting or bite, but their large numbers and even louder sound in the summer make them unavoidable.
People anywhere around the globe can download the cicada safari or iNaturalist app, take pictures, and submit for experts to review. Citizen scientists have been recruited for cicada watches since the 1840s, making it one of the oldest efforts in the U.S. Citizen scientists will help experts draw brood territory maps, study changes over the years, and document changes from human development. These records have helped identify new populations of broods that would have otherwise been overlooked. Scientists only get a few weeks to study a brood with a population in the millions, but only available for a matter of weeks. Get your phones! They need all the help they can get.