The Cicadas are Coming to Northeast Ohio; Track, Map them on an App

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Periodical cicadas are coming to the northeastern Ohio and there is now a way to track, photograph and to help map these interesting insects on an mobile phone app created by cicada experts.

Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., Dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, who has studied cicadas throughout his academic career, worked in partnership with the Center for IT Engagement (cITe) at Mount St. Joseph University to create the Cicada Safari app It allows users to search, photograph and help map the 17-year Brood VIII cicadas that will begin emerging in West Virginia, northeastern Ohio and parts of western Pennsylvania  starting in mid-May.

“Periodical cicadas are bugs of history,” Dr. Kritsky 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.

“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. An issue with citizen science projects is the difficulty to verify new observations. The photographs submitted to our map are like voucher specimens permitting us to verify the observations making the maps more useful for future research”

To join Cicada Safari and help map the 2019 emergence, simply go to an app store and download the Cicada Safari app. When a cicada is spotted, users can use the app to photograph the insects and then submit the pictures for inclusion on MSJ’s 2019 cicada map.

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, “Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle” and “In Your Backyard: Periodical Cicadas”.

Following are some cicada facts from Dr. Kritsky’s cicada web page:

  • Cicadas emerge after the soil temperature exceeds 64 degrees, which is usually in mid May.
  • Only male cicadas sign through sound-producing structures called tymbals on either side of the abdomen.
  • 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 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 nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil.
  • Periodical cicadas are often incorrectly called locusts. Locusts are grasshoppers and cicadas are more closely related to aphids than grasshoppers

About the Mount

As a Catholic institution rooted in the values of the Sisters of Charity, Mount St. Joseph University excels at serving the common good. Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students at the Mount are inspired to think beyond the classroom and redraw the bounds of what’s possible for their futures. This is accomplished through individualized educational experiences, a safe, secure campus environment and an all-in commitment from faculty and staff to seeing students reach their highest potential. The Mount fosters life-long learners who serve, care, and contribute to the world beyond their front doors.

Pictured In Cover Photo: Cicada Face

Cover Photo Credited to
Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., Dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences Mount St. Joseph University

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