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Assessing Insect Flight Behavior in the Laboratory: A Primer on Flight Mill Methodology and What Can Be Learned

Steven E Naranjo
Annals of the Entomological Society of America 2019 v.112 no.3 pp. 182-199
flight, history, insect flight, insects, laboratory experimentation, laboratory techniques
Dispersal is a key component in the population ecology and dynamics of insects and remains one of the most difficult and intractable ecological processes to study in the field. As a consequence, many researchers have looked to laboratory methods for investigating the myriad factors that govern and impact an insect’s ability to move within its environment. A key tool in this effort since at least the early 1950s has been the insect flight mill. Nearly 260 studies have been published using flight mills covering 214 species in 61 families and 9 orders. This review explores the methodology and technology of tethered flight in insects using flight mills. The goal is to provide the reader with a historical context of the approach, an understanding of the available tools and technology, background on how best to apply these tools through a comparative lens, and to summarize the wide breadth of factors that have been explored to further our knowledge of insect flight behavior. Overall, it is hoped that the interested reader will understand the limits and benefits of flight mills and will know where to find the resources, and perhaps collaborators, to pursue this line of study.