Swarmsight: Real-time tracking of insect antenna movements and proboscis extension reflex using a common preparation and conventional hardware

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Many scientifically and agriculturally important insects use antennae to detect the presence of volatile chemical compounds and extend their proboscis during feeding. The ability to rapidly obtain high-resolution measurements of natural antenna and proboscis movements and assess how they change in response to chemical, developmental, and genetic manipulations can aid the understanding of insect behavior. By extending our previous work on assessing aggregate insect swarm or animal group movements from natural and laboratory videos using the video analysis software SwarmSight, we developed a novel, free, and open-source software module, SwarmSight Appendage Tracking (SwarmSight.org) for frame-by-frame tracking of insect antenna and proboscis positions from conventional web camera videos using conventional computers. The software processes frames about 120 times faster than humans, performs at better than human accuracy, and, using 30 frames per second (fps) videos, can capture antennal dynamics up to 15 Hz. The software was used to track the antennal response of honey bees to two odors and found significant mean antennal retractions away from the odor source about 1 s after odor presentation. We observed antenna position density heat map cluster formation and cluster and mean angle dependence on odor concentration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere56803
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number130
StatePublished - Dec 7 2017



  • Animal behavior
  • Antenna movements
  • Honey bees
  • Insects
  • Machine vision
  • Neuroscience
  • Olfaction
  • Proboscis extension reflex
  • Software
  • Video analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)

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