and the design of the area), only change one variable at a time so that
changes in insect response can be attributed to the variable manipulated. To broaden the applicability of the experimental outcomes,
different types of insects can be tested using the selected stimuli or
arenas. Afterward, students can compare reactions between individuals of the same type and between different types.
As with any experiment, it is important that students follow the
instructions and perform each step as consistently as possible so that
the data collected will be comparable. This is especially important
when working in a group; students should try to be in the same positions around the arena for each replication and sample within. With
either variation, students will need to measure the insect’s movements
at the end of the experiment. Each individual insect is a replicate, and
each measured movement is a sample. Students should attempt to get
5–10 samples before the insect becomes fatigued (stops reacting to the
stimulus), at which point the insect should be put back in its container
and a new insect brought out to sample. They can calculate the average distance for each individual insect (from the samples), and then
averages with respect to each type of insect, stimulus, or arena tested.
Materials & Preparation
Collecting and observing insects and developing a hypothesis
should take ~45 minutes, but students should observe the insects’
behavior for as long as time permits. The experiment should take
~60 minutes for groups to sample 5–10 insects each.
1. Insects: Jumping insects, such as pinhead crickets, can be
ordered from scientific supply companies or purchased at
local pet stores. Students can capture other insects at home
or on their school campus (beetles, crickets, grasshoppers,
and planthoppers or leafhoppers will work well). Students
should avoid flying insects because they will not work well
in this experiment and many are dangerous to collect (e.g.,
wasps, bees, mosquitoes). Students should also avoid other
common biting, stinging, or venomous arthropods, such as
ants, spiders, and ticks. Try to collect at least 10 of each type
of insect used. Insects should be placed individually in con-
tainers (plastic vials, Eppendorf tubes, or any small plastic
container) immediately prior to beginning the experiment.
To ensure healthy and active insects, collection should occur
no more than 24 hours prior to the experiment, and prefera-
bly the morning of the experiment. Students should observe
common safety practices, including using the buddy system,
collecting only in areas designated by their instructor, and
avoiding poisonous plants (e.g., poison ivy). Insects in con-
tainers should be kept at room temperature and out of direct
sunlight. After the experiment, insects captured outside by
students can be released; insects purchased should be put
in a freezer overnight and then discarded.
2. Materials per pair/group: The following items should be
ready the day of the experiment: large sheet of paper (roughly
1 × 1 m; e.g., easel pad or roll of parchment paper), pen or pencil, paintbrush, cotton-tipped applicator or other items that can
be used as probes, manila folder, insects in their containers,
metric tape measure or ruler, and data sheets (Table 4).
3. Testing arena: Use the large sheet of paper as the “arena.” Before
releasing any insect, mark a starting point in a corner or near an
edge for the basic experiment. The starting point for the
advanced experiment should be in the center of the arena.
The upright manila folder will later be useful for corralling the
insect and keeping it in the arena.
4. Student groups and individual tasks: Students should work in
groups of at least two. At least one person should have eyes on
the insect at all times so that no data points are missed and so
Table 4. Example data sheet for the advanced experiment.
Observation Crickets are more active than planthoppers when it is noisy.
Hypothesis Crickets are more sensitive to an auditory stimulus than planthoppers.
Prediction If clapping is used as the stimulus, then crickets will travel a farther average distance than planthoppers.
Treatment Species/Type Replicate Distance Jumped/Moved (cm) Average Distance (cm)
Control (no stimulus) Planthopper 1 5, 7, 1, 10 5.75
Planthopper 2 2, 3, 8, 11 6
Stimulus 1 Planthopper 1
Stimulus 2 Planthopper 1