GRAPHical Insect Tracking Environment (GRAPHITE)

Method for automated tracking of moving insects

Methods for measuring animal movement are critical for understanding numerous ecological and evolutionary processes. However, few methods are available for small organisms, and even fewer methods offer consistent individual‐level resolution while remaining affordable, scalable and operable in the field. We developed a low‐cost animal movement tracking method with a user‐friendly graphical interface, called GRAPHITE. Our automated software can quantify motions of insects by offline video analysis of inexpensive and lightweight human‐readable tags attached to individual insects. The integrated graphical editor provides a full‐featured environment for users to review the generated tracking data and make individual‐ or group‐level edits. GRAPHITE (Matlab v.9.0.0+) identifies tags in image frames, links sequences of corresponding tags into “tracks” for each individual insect, infers the tag identifier, and provides a user‐friendly graphical environment for editing tracking data. Users can either batch process raw video data using the full analysis pipeline or execute GRAPHITE modules independently for a tailored analysis. We demonstrated GRAPHITE’s efficacy on the movement of honey bees. Below is an example summary video generated by GRAPHITE after processing and user edits.

Summary video of tracked bees.

Paths of tracked bees.