It is the rare insect that is only found in one place in Britain – Hampshire.

The cicada has been sighted in the New Forest since 1812 – but its last known appearance was in 2000.

But it is believed that colonies are yet to be discovered in the Forest. Now researchers at the University of Southampton have stepped up the hunt for the elusive insect by launching a smartphone app to help the search for the cicada.

The insect is known for its high-pitched song – which it sings from May to July. What the new app will do is automatically detect and recognise this song. If a cicada might have been heard, the app asks the user to upload the recording so it can be analysed in more detail.

Dr Alex Rogers from the University of Southampton is leading the New Forest Cicada project. He said: “We’re hoping that the millions of visitors to the New Forest can use their smartphones to help us locate any remaining colonies of the cicada that might remain in the Forest.”

The technology that could potentially find hundreds of cicadas may also be used to find other rare creepy-crawlies, according to Dr Rogers. He added: “We use an approach similar to that used in human speech recognition to detect the cicada’s song. As we collect more recordings from the Forest we hope to be able to extend this to automatically recognise many more insects.”

To launch the hunt for the cicada, the New Forest National Park will be holding a wildlife monitoring marathon at Roydon Woods Nature Reserve near Brockenhurst on June 7 and 8. The app is available for both iPhones and Android and is available by searching for ‘cicada hunt’.