60-Second Science

Help Scientists Stalk Cicadas

Various citizen-science projects let you contribute to our understanding of the periodical cicada swarm. Karen Hopkin reports

When the 17-year cicadas last made their entrance, the world wide web was in its infancy and Google didn’t even exist. Now, these emerging insects are the bug-eyed darlings of the cyberworld. And with your help, scientists are using the power of the Internet to track their appearances via Twitter, Instagram and other online databases.

This particular brood of “periodicals,” known as Brood II, has been underground since 1996. The bugs started climbing back into trees this May, and have been rising by the billions and mating up a storm along the east coast, from North Carolina to Connecticut.

To record the path of Swarmageddon, the Wildlife Conservation Society is asking for your photos on Instagram at #cicadasinmyhood. You can tweet about their chirping at #BroodII, and report sightings to the National Geographic Society at

If you want to get more hands on, there’s a citizen science cicada project calling for corpses to be mailed to its headquarters. See the Urban Buzz project at

And if all this bug talk makes your skin crawl, go ahead and ‘like’ the I Hate Cicadas Facebook page.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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