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University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

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Make Your Own Compound Eye

by Stephanie Bailey,
Entomology Extension Specialist

Materials needed:
  • 5-10 egg cartons
  • LARGE mixing bowl
  • paint- bright, dark or metallic color
  • 1 inch diameter or smaller round mirrors
  • newspaper
  • glue gun
  • medium size mixing bowl
  • flour
  • glue (optional)

This project is a bit complex but well worth the effort. The mirrors are about 15 US cents each as of 1995. The glue gun is essential in getting the 'skeleton' of the compound eye together.

compound eye step1
S.Bailey, 1995

To begin with, cut up the egg cartons into individual 'eyes.' Invert the LARGE mixing bowl, and cover with 1 or 2 layers of newspaper. Using the glue gun, attach individual eyes to each other, or to the newspaper covering the bowl, using the bowl as a mold. The closer together the eyes fit, the better.

Once the inverted bowl is covered with individual eyes, rip sheets of newspaper into thin strips. In the medium size mixing bowl, mix flour and water into a paste (paper mache). Adding extra glue is optional.

Use the newspaper, dipped in paper mache paste, to fill and smooth out the spaces in between individual eyes. Allow to dry. This may take one to several days.

compound eye step 2
S.Bailey, 1995

Gently pull the compound eye off of the large mixing bowl. If some of the newspaper in- between sticks, don't worry. Add a layer of paper mache newspaper strips to the inside part of the compound eye, again smoothing out and filling in spaces between the individual eyes. Allow to dry.

compound eye step 3
S.Bailey, 1995

Once the compound eye is completely dry, gently remove from bowl. Cover both surfaces of the eye with at least 2-3 coats of spray paint, in a bright, dark, or metallic color.

On the inside (concave side) of the compound eye, CAREFULLY hot glue a mirror to the bottom of each individual eye.

compound eye step 4
S.Bailey, 1995

The compound eye can be displayed with a large easel, or on a shelf. By looking into the compound eye, students can get an idea of what an insect might see.

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Photographs courtesy of S. Bailey, University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Last updated: 21 January 1999

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