Application of infrared thermography to the study of behavioural fever in the desert locust

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Infrared (IR) thermography is used increasingly to estimate body temperature in small ectotherms such as insects. We used the thermal behaviour of an agricultural pest, the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, as a case study to demonstrate the application of this method to thermal biology. During microbial infection, the desert locust uses environmentally derived heat to elevate its body temperature. This 'behavioural fever' delays onset of disease caused by a fungal biopesticide. Understanding the thermal biology of S. gregaria is therefore a prerequisite for the development of a more effective mycoinsecticide. To accurately use IR thermography as a method of temperature measurement, IR data must first be calibrated with body temperature. Here, we identify two major factors which affect the IR data output and hence need to be incorporated into a camera calibration: (1) emissivity, predominantly determined by colour, and (2) the internal temperature of the camera. We demonstrate the limitations of thermocouple-based methods of temperature measurement in comparison to IR thermography. The detail provided by the large data sets revealed for the first time an early onset of fever in S. gregaria during infection with Metarhizium acridum viz. 20-25 h post-inoculation in comparison to the 48 h demonstrated previously.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-451
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • schistocerca gregaria
  • calibration
  • metarhizium acridum
  • behavioural fever
  • infrared thermography


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