Urban Buzz: Citizen Science with Cicadas

About this lesson

At any given moment we’ve got animals living under our feet – some of them for 17 years at a time. An underground universe populated by mysterious creatures, digging… feeding… emerging.

Sometimes their underground homes get paved over, or flooded, or have a bucket of bright green toxic sludge poured on them. Scientists want to learn more about what happens to cicadas when they’re down there for so long – so they need your help. Go out with your students, parents, kids, grandparents, friends, dogs, friend’s dogs and collect some dead bugs and send them to us! (Yes, you heard that right.)

View this the Urban Buzz Project on iNaturalist.

scistarterView Urban Buzz on SciStarter.com

Downloads

Lesson
Habitat Guide
Data Card
Cicada Anatomy

How to participate

Step 1
Step 1

Step 1

Collect cicadas: Pick-up 2-5 (or more if you’re feeling like an overachiever) dead or alive bugs and freeze them to kill off the insect or the insects that might be trying to parasitize them (it happens). Photo by Lea Shell

Step 2
Step 2

Step 2

Determine habitat type: Where did you collect the cicadas? Look down and match the habitat guide to where you found the insects – is it paved? Mowed? Forested? Photos by Lea Shell

Step 3
Step 3

Step 3

Male or female?: Flip the cicada over to see if it’s a boy or a girl; girls will have a straw-like structure called an ovipositor and a boy will not. Photos by Lea Shell

Step 4
Step 4

Step 4

Record Data: It’s only science if we write it down, right? So use the Urban Buzz Data Card(s) – one per cicada – to record the outside temperature, GPS coordinates, habitat type and sex so that scientists can learn more about the cicadas you’re sending in. Photo by Lea Shell

Step 5
Step 5

Step 5

Mail us your dead bugs, please! Freeze, package, include the filled out Urban Buzz Data Card(s) and then ship (the insects don’t have to stay frozen, that’s unnecessary) your cicadas to the Urban Buzz Citizen Science researchers at NC State (address listed below). Photo by Lea Shell

Materials List

  • Protective plastic container to keep the bugs from getting completely smashed by the antics of the United States Postal Service.
  • Paper towels (for padding the insects on their journey to North Carolina)
  • Google Maps or some means of getting GPS coordinates from the collection site
  • Printed habitat guide (Habitat Guide)
  • Thermometer or accurate weather report
  • Data card(s) – one per insect collected (Urban Buzz Data Card)

Mailing Address

Mail Cicadas to researchers at UT Chattanooga:
Dept. Biology, Geology and Environmental Science