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Local Researchers Study Cicadas Earliest Known History

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A pair of local researchers have been studying some of the earliest known observations of cicadas that have been largely overlooked.

Video Transcript

- Well, we have been talking a lot about cicadas lately, naturally, but it's hardly the first time these insects have been causing a buzz.

- Yeah, Stetson Miller tells us some of the earliest studies of cicadas and why two local researchers trying to bring the work to light.

STETSON MILLER: Cicadas have long fascinated Marylanders for hundreds of years. In fact, one of the earliest known studies of the insects happened right here in Catonsville back in the 18th century.

JANET BARBER: Benjamin Banneker started studying the cicada, which a lot of people call the locust, way back in 1749 at age 17.

STETSON MILLER: Dr. Janet Barber and her husband, Dr. Asamoah Nkwanta have been studying Benjamin Banneker's journal, where he recorded his observations of cicadas over 51 years on his Baltimore County Farm that's now a historical park and museum.

JANET BARBER: He thought, maybe these insects might be a little bit dangerous. He learned really fast that they were not.

STETSON MILLER: The famous African American scientist is best known for surveying the land that became Washington, DC, but his work on cicadas has largely been overlooked until the couple started studying his journal at the Maryland Center for History and Culture.

JANET BARBER: Hardly anyone knew about Benjamin Banneker being a part of the study for the cicada. He was not recognized. It was not in the history books.

STETSON MILLER: He watched the insects over four cycles throughout his life and may have been one of the first to observe their short appearance every few years.

ASAMOAH NKWANTA: It's looking like he is really, really among the early Americans to record and document the 17-year cycle.

STETSON MILLER: And the two are hoping, with the help of their research, that Banneker's work on cicadas will become better known.

ASAMOAH NKWANTA: And that was the purpose of our research is to bring more notoriety and recognition for him for that contribution.

STETSON MILLER: And if you want to learn more about Banneker's work, you can come right here to the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. It's open every Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00. In Catonsville, Stetson Miller for WJZ.