News & Politics

This Cicada App Lets Users Track (or Avoid) the Swarming Bugs

You can also duke it out for the title of "top cicada scout."

A Brood X cicada, supposedly. Photograph by PointandClick via iStock.

According to the Washington Post, we have just one week left of cicada-free bliss in the District. How many bugs you’ll see and when they’ll show up depends on where you live. Access to soil is key for cicada hibernation, and soil temperatures determine when they’ll emerge.

You can track it all with Cicada Safari, a new app that lets users see where the cicadas are popping up in real time. It was created by professor and cicada expert Dr. Gene Kritsky working with the Center for IT Engagement at  Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. The app encourages users to take pictures of cicadas when they see them in order to help researchers “monitor cicada diversity.” So far, the highest number of reported sightings have been in Rockville, Silver Spring, Arlington, and Great Falls.

Those who want to contribute to the endeavor will be prompted to enable their phone to record the location and date of where they take their cicada snapshots. Once the photos are verified, they’ll be logged into the app’s map, which shows the exact locations in which cicadas have been spotted. You can also head to the app’s website for esoteric facts (the white-phase cicadas taste like “cold, canned asparagus”)  and crafting ideas (cicada origami!).

The app could be a useful tool for both bug lovers and the insect-averse. Those who enjoy cicada foraging can compete to be the top “cicada scout” by snapping the most pics for the app. Those who want to stay far, far away from the swarms can check the map to try to find a safe haven.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.