Patches of the East Coast are buzzing with the return of the 17-year cicadas. They're carpeting spots from GA to CT, and filling the air with a 7 kHz mating buzz. Alert scientists when you see them emerge — or help predict their arrival with a home-built sensor!Hover over the dots for details.
From Georgia to Connecticut, baby magicicadas, or "nymphs," have been sleeping and feeding on the juice of tree roots underground for 17 years. They emerge when the soil temperature reaches a steady 64° F.
Build a detector to monitor the soil 8" down. . .
. . . and use the nine LEDs on the detector to report your temperature to Radiolab. A steady 64° F indicates the cicadas should arrive!
A week after emerging from underground, the male magicicada begins its mating call. The female magicicada responds by flicking its wings. A mating ritual ensues to spawn the next brood of magicicada!
You can hear the magicicada's call. You won't miss it!
Once they have emerged, it takes about a week for magicicadas to shed their final "skin" and reach adulthood.
When you see or hear cicadas emerge, we want to hear about it — and so do bug scientsts! Fill out the report form, and we'll send your data to research scientist John Cooley and professor Chris Simon at the University of Connecticut Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department. They're tracking this once-in-a-17-year event for science.
Build Your Own Sensor
Magicicada Brood II will make its 17-year appearance when the ground 8" down is a steady 64° F. Help predict the arrival by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting your findings back to to Radiolab. We'll put them on a map and share your observations with the world.
The whole detector costs about $80 in parts and takes about 2 hours to build. You'll want it in the ground by mid-April, the earliest the cicadas are likely to emerge.
You can also participate — and save money — by buying a soil thermometer that will detect the temperature 8 inches underground, such as this one that costs less than $8. If you've got other creative ways to build or buy a detector, let us know!
- An Arduino Uno, available from Adafruit, Sparkfun or RadioShack. (The Arduino Due, Mega and Leonardo models also should work.)
- A SideKick Basic Kit for Arduino from RadioShack. From this kit, we use the following items, which you can also buy separately:
- 9 LEDs (2 legged, any color)
- 9 - 330-ohm resistors
- 5 - 10K-ohm resistors
- 11 short jumper cables
- 4 longer jumper cables
- Wrapping wire
- USB A-B cable
- Electrical tape
- Plastic baggie
- 12-inch long wooden dowel
- A laptop computer to configure the Arduino and power it when you take a reading. You can also power Ardiuno with a 9V battery and this connector.
Code and Deploy