The New Forest Cicada

The New Forest Cicada (Cicadetta Montana s. str.) is an insect native to the UK in great danger of becoming extinct. It's the only species of cicadidae ever known to the country, for what we know. Several entomologists have searched for it in the past few years, but no sighting has been confirmed for over a decade. However, the area where the cicada could be found is vast, extending to the entire New Forest and potentially other sites in Southern England. It spends most of its life as a nymph underground—roughly 7-8 years—to then emerge, become and adult, reproduce and die all within 6 weeks. Its favourite habitat are sunny, south-facing clearings, where you will find the females laying eggs in low vegetation, such as braken and short bushes, while the males will be singing from high up in the canopy, occasionally descending to find a suitable partner. Their call is difficult to recognise, sounding like a high-pitched hiss that is at the upper limit of our ears' frequency range. Here are a waveform and a spectrogram of its call:

Waveform and spectrogram
The waveform and spectrogram of the cicada call. This track has been recorded in Slovenia with an iPhone 4S, then filtered and amplified. It shows how clearly an iPhone can pick up the call!
New Forest National Park boundaries
The location of the New Forest National Park on the South coast of England. Image generated from maps.google.co.uk.

Humans can hear sounds roughly in the range of 20Hz to 20kHz, but with age this range greatly reduces. Many people over 40, are unlikely to be able to hear this species of cicada singing.

In the UK, the cicada can only be found in the New Forest, a national park in south-west Hampshire (see map). However, even here their presence has gradually decreased, becoming a concern for experts in the last two decades.

The cicada only comes out between late May and early July, and only in particular conditions; the weather should be sunny and warm (at least 20°C). Check out the weather forecast at the side to see if you are likely to see a cicada in the next few days!



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