Magicicada septendecim

Photo credit: Holly Menninger

Over the last few weeks, we’ve watched and envied reports and photos coming from those of you living within the emergence zone of Brood II 17-year periodical cicadas (from Georgia to Connecticut). We even traveled westward to witness the magical Magicicada spp. in action in Greensboro, North Carolina (as our own backyard in Raleigh is too far east of the emergence zone). We encouraged you to report your observations of emergence online to help out other cicada researchers.

And yet, we felt something was missing. We were hungry to do some cicada-related public science. But what?

We wracked our brains. We consulted experts like the awesome John Cooley and Chris Simon who are leading a tremendous effort to map the emergence of Brood II over time and space. We thought about themes of our public science program – studying the biodiversity in our daily lives, the species that live on our bodies, in our homes, backyards, and CITIES… and then it hit us.

Over the course of the 17 years while periodical cicadas are underground, the landscapes above them change – trees are planted or knocked over, streets are paved, houses are built and demolished, old lots return to the wild, people come and go. How might these changes – particularly those related to urbanization – affect the 17-year cicadas?

Will you help us find out? Now, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, we have a tremendous opportunity to sample 17-year cicadas over a wide geographic area, across a range of landscapes from forested to urban.

We’re asking you to collect and send us 5-10 dead, adult 17-year cicadas from locations throughout the emergence range. We’ll measure the impact of urbanization by looking at the “crookedness” of their body parts – that is, to what extent do the length, width, and shape of parts on the left and right sides of the cicada bodies differ from one another? Research on other insects suggests that increased exposure to environmental stress during development (stress like pollution or warming – things that might happen more often in the urban environment) results in increased body “crookedness” – Is this the case with the 17-year cicadas?

So what are you waiting for?! The cicadas are out and about RIGHT NOW! Get out there and grab some dead cicadas!

Click here for more information on the Urban Buzz Cicada Project – including background material, instructions for collecting and data forms.

The clock is ticking — GO! GO! GO!