University develops app to help search for the rare New Forest cicada

Jun 03, 2013
University develops app to help search for the rare New Forest cicada
The New Forest cicada.

Researchers from the University of Southampton today released a smartphone app designed to help in the search for a rare insect found only in the New Forest National Park.

The New (Cicadetta montana) is the only cicada native to the UK. During May to July it sings with a very characteristic high-pitched song, which is at the limits of human hearing and is particularly difficult for most adults to hear. Sightings of the cicada within the New Forest date back to 1812, but the last unconfirmed sighting was in 2000. However, it's quite likely that colonies remain undiscovered in less visited parts of the forest.

The search for the cicada will be launched at the New Forest National Park BioBlitz, which is being organised by the New Forest Authority on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 June 2013. The wildlife monitoring marathon will be held at Roydon Woods near Brockenhurst. From 4pm on 7 June until 4pm on 8 June, nature lovers can join experts on bug hunts and river surveys, as well as take part in pond dipping, fungi forays and an early morning birdsong walk.

Dr Alex Rogers, a Reader in the Agents, Interaction and Complexity Research Group in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, who leads the work of the New Forest Cicada Project says: "Modern smartphones have extremely sensitive microphones and enough to automatically detect and recognise the song of the New Forest cicada.

"We're hoping that the millions of visitors to the New Forest can use their smartphones to help us locate any remaining colonies of the cicada that might remain in the forest."

The records a 30 second survey using the smartphone's microphone and looks for the particular frequencies and that characterise the cicada's song. If it thinks a cicada might have been heard, it prompts the user to upload the recording, so that it can be analysed in more detail.

"The cicada likes sunny south-facing clearings, and will only sing on a warm day when there is little wind, so we'll be encouraging people to use the app when conditions are best. We'll be able to use the reports from the app to compile a map of areas that have already been searched, in order to focus the efforts of the professional entomologists who are also looking for the cicada," says Davide Zilli, the PhD student who has developed the app.

"We use an approach similar to that used in human speech recognition to detect the cicada's song. As we collect more recordings from the forest we hope to be able to extend this to automatically recognise many more common insects."

Natalie Fisher, Interpretation Officer at The New Forest National Park Authority, adds: "The New Forest has a unique mix of habitats, which make it one of the best places for wildlife in Britain. We're very excited by the fact that this app, and the activities going on during the BioBlitz, will draw attention to the rich wildlife that we have right on our doorsteps."

The app is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones and is available on the iTunes and Google Play app stores by searching for 'Cicada Hunt'. More information about the cicada and the app can be found on the project's website –

Explore further: Secrets of the cicada's sound

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Secrets of the cicada's sound

May 31, 2013

Of all the bugs that achieve the mantle of summer pest, cicadas are perhaps the most curious. They don't sting, they don't bite, they don't buzz around your head, they taste good in chocolate, but as the drowning din of the ...

Cicadas get a jump on cleaning (w/ Video)

Apr 29, 2013

As cicadas on the East Coast begin emerging from their 17-year slumber, a spritz of dew drops is all they need to keep their wings fresh and clean. Researchers at Duke University and James Cook University ...

Mysterious insect to emerge in parts of Pennsylvania

May 09, 2013

( —One of the world's most mysterious insects is about to invade the skies over wooded areas in eastern Pennsylvania and other states, but an expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences ...

Recommended for you

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

5 hours ago

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

7 hours ago

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

7 hours ago

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

( —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...