SwarmSight: Measuring the temporal progression of animal group activity levels from natural-scene and laboratory videos

Justas Birgiolas, Christopher M. Jernigan, Brian Smith, Sharon Crook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


We describe SwarmSight (available at https://github.com/justasb/SwarmSight), a novel, open-source, Microsoft Windows software tool for quantitative assessment of the temporal progression of animal group activity levels from recorded videos. The tool utilizes a background subtraction machine vision algorithm and provides an activity metric that can be used to quantitatively assess and compare animal group behavior. Here we demonstrate the tool’s utility by analyzing defensive bee behavior as modulated by alarm pheromones, wild-bird feeding onset and interruption, and cockroach nest-finding activity. Although more sophisticated, commercial software packages are available, SwarmSight provides a low-cost, open-source, and easy-to-use alternative that is suitable for a wide range of users, including minimally trained research technicians and behavioral science undergraduate students in classroom laboratory settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Apr 29 2016



  • Activity change
  • Activity detection
  • Activity levels
  • Automated behavior assessment
  • Bees
  • Birds
  • Cockroaches
  • Group activity
  • Insects
  • Motion detection
  • Natural scenes
  • Software
  • SwarmSight
  • Video motion analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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