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  • Writer's pictureKaun Lab

What materials should I use for building behavior arenas?

We use lots of specialty items in building Drosophila behavior arenas and tracking systems, but sometimes it’s difficult to know where to get all of these pieces.

When you are building an apparatus, you want to use materials that are:

  • Easy to use

  • Easy to put together

  • Washable (easy to clean with just water since soap and smelly solvents affect behavior)

  • Have material specifications that don’t contrast with the assay we want to run (such as chemical reactivity, heat resistance, water resistance, etc)

What plastics should I use for fly behavior arenas? We use a lot of plastics when building behavior arenas since it’s easy to work with and (relatively) easy to clean. We build all of our behavior arenas out of acrylics because they are chemical and scratch resistant. I know some people use 3D printed materials for their behavior arenas. I can see the appeal of this because you can design the arenas to your specifications relatively easily. However, we prefer not to use 3D printed plastics because these plastics can be a bit rough and porous, which means they are harder to clean the fly cuticular hydrocarbons and feces. It’s important to be able to use clean arenas since they impact where the flies spend time in the arena and how they socialize. 

Cleaning your arenas: One of the reasons we prefer to use acrylics is because it’s pretty easy to wash with just water. Soap can leave residues on the arena surface so we don’t use soap unless absolutely necessary. We also prefer not to clean the arenas with ethanol because it damages the plastic. 

Which glue should I use? Pay special attention to the type of glue you use because it can be super smelly, which can affect fly behavior, or have weird textures that affect fly behavior. Sometimes you don’t need to use glue and can stick plastics together using a teeny bit of mineral oil, then fasten with itty bitty screws. If you look at the image on this post you'll see the layout of an apparatus with four arenas that we build without glue (small screws hold it together). We prefer this method if it’s a possibility. I’ve used an impressive amount of hot glue in building larger behavior equipment. It looks super messy, but it works in a pinch and once dry doesn’t seem to affect behavior much. It’s best if you can restrict this to the outside of the equipment and avoid any glue on the inside surface of an arena where the flies are behaving. Acrylic liquid cement should be used whenever you use acrylic materials. UV glues are used for head-fixing flies for 2-Photon experiments.

Buying your materials: Here is a list of places to get things for building the behavior arenas (ie chambers in which we place flies for performing behavior experiments) aka ‘List of Reza’s favorite companies for ordering stuff for building apparatuses’.

Here’s are other vendors and supplies that we have also used:

Light Emitting Diode (LED) supplies:

Cameras and lenses (more on this in another post): 

Do you have favorite places that you order from? Please comment below!

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