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New Forest cicada

Thanks to funding from the Forestry Commission, Buglife experts and volunteers will join forces with wildlife sound recorders and Southampton University. For the first time old fashioned entomological survey methods, high-tech sound recording equipment and a smartphone app will be used to search for the New Forest Cicada.

One of the UK’s largest insects up to 3cm long with distinctive clear wings and stripy abdomen.The New Forest Cicada is the only cicada native to the. It is classified as Endangered in the UK and is UK Biodiversity Action Plan species. It likes sunny south-facing forest clearings with nearby large trees.

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 confirmed sighting was in the early 1990’s. The cicada has always been hard to find as it spends much of its life underground as a nymph, taking up to 8 years to mature and hatch. Once hatched the cicada is often high up in the trees out of sight- that is why detecting it singing is one the most effective methods of finding it.

New forest cicada (Cicadetta montana) © Jim Grant

New forest cicada (Cicadetta montana) © Jim Grant

Although the New Forest cicada has never been common in the UK its recent disappearance is thought to be linked to the loss of its favoured habitat through altered grazing regimes. It is also possible that it remains undiscovered in other forests in the south of the UK.

Southampton University have launched the UK’s first smartphone app that can be used by the general public to detect and recognise the song of the New Forest cicada. Buglife hope this new app will aid the rediscovery of this species in 2013. Finding the New Forest cicada will allow experts to target habitat management to aid the conservation of this species.

The development of the smartphone app provides a great opportunity for visitors to the New Forest to get involved and help out with the hunt. The app is very simple to use it records a 30 second survey using the smartphone’s microphone, and looks for the particular frequencies and sound patterns 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. We are encouraging people to use the app along paths, tracks and clearing such as picnic areas as these often provide ideal habitat for the Cicada.

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 New Forest cicada project’s website. If anyone thinks they have seen or heard a New Forest cicada either recently or historically please contact Dr Sarah Henshall.

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