Scale insect time lapse

The scale insect wiggle dance made me wonder about scale insect behavior. The consensus among people who study and think about scale insects is that they don’t move very much. But has anyone ever measured this? I often see the species I work with walking across branches during life stages when they’re thought to be mostly sedentary.

So my tech-savy fiance Joe thought it would be cool to do a time lapse overnight. Here’s our setup:

joe_timelapse

timelapse_setup

We filmed a branch with a 2nd instars and a dead mother scale from 2013. We found these scales didn’t move but that some interesting things happened.

1. Several produce honeydew– this is the glimmering on the one just below the big female. This highlights something we already know, that on warm days, like the one mimicked by my balmy apartment, oak lecanium scale insects feed.
2. Several also produce wax.
3. Mystery “footprints” show up on the top left branch.

Some of these are less visible on the youtube version of the video than they are on the raw version. Anyway, we’ll make more time lapses, and it’d be cool to identify the most interesting questions we can answer with this technique. For example, I think it’d be cool to see if the scales produce more honeydew when ants are around. I also think it’d be neat to see if the scales start walking around when the branch starts to dry out to find better places to eat.

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