The entomologists said the Brood II cicadas, which emerge from the ground every 17 years, last emerged in Maryland in 1994, when technology was not yet advanced enough to create a clear portrait of their territorial patterns, The Baltimore Sun reported Monday.
The scientists said they are hoping to document how territories have shifted over time and study whether climate changes have altered their schedules.
"If they show up in Baltimore, that would be way cool," said Michael J. Raupp, an entomology professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. "Whether there is a more current distribution [of cicada broods], nobody knows."
Scientists said GPS technology and public observations shared via the Internet will help them study questions including why broods separated into different cycles and whether territories overlap with the cicadas that last emerged in 2004.
"We want to get nice geo-referenced maps, so we can say, 'Cicadas were here in these densities,' and then come back and see if they changed," said University of Connecticut research scientist John Cooley. "Maps we have do not really let us come close to answering that question."