New technologies aid hunt for the UK’s most elusive insect- The New Forest Cicada

Wednesday 8th June 2016

Buglife is working in collaboration with scientists from the University of Oxford, the University of Southampton, and the Species Recovery Trust to search for one of the UK’s most elusive insects – the New Forest cicada at key locations managed by the Forestry Commission. This mysterious little critter hasn’t been sighted in the UK for well over 15 years and is highly endangered! 

Cicadas spend around seven years under ground as a nymph, before the adults emerge and are active for 2-4 weeks between late May to mid July.  Male cicadas fly up into the trees where they sing to attract a mate, however these fair weather loving insects will only sing on warm, sunny, still days. The frequency that the cicada sings at is so high that it is very hard for humans to hear.

Over the last few years, insect experts from Buglife and Species Recovery Trust have conducted extensive searches for the cicada across the New Forest and have highlighted the areas where this insect is most likely to be found.  This summer over 100 tiny acoustic cicada detectors, developed in Oxford and Southampton, will be deployed across the forest in key locations between May and July.

“Our new cicada detectors allow us to continuously monitor areas where we think the cicada may be present, automatically detecting and recording its high frequency song,” said Prof. Alex Rogers of the University of Oxford.

Dr Sarah Henshall, Lead Invertebrate Ecologist for Buglife said that “the New Forest is a large and diverse area, we are optimistic that the New Forest cicada is hanging on in a rarely visited part of the Forest.  Using both this new technology, and help from the public using the previously launched CicadaHunt smartphone app, we are hopeful we can find the UK’s only native species of cicada.” 

We are calling on members of the public visiting the New Forest to join the search by downloading the app and conducting their own survey . We have produced a map highlighting we thing there is the greatest chance of find a cicada.

Dominic Price, Director of the Species Recovery Trust, said: “The New Forest Cicada is proving incredibly elusive to track down, giving us real worries for its continuing survival. Hopefully this technology will enable us to re-find this remarkable insect.”


Jay Doyle, South District Forestry Commission Ecologist, said: “To rediscover the New Forest cicada in woodlands we manage would be fantastic news and this would make it possible for us to improve the cicada’s habitat.”