University of Minnesota

Ecology Fair University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Abstracts from St. Hubert School 2003

St. Hubert School
8201 Main St
Chanhassen, MN 55317

Year: 2003
Teacher(s): Cindy Petersen

Blooming Butterflies

Kelsey G, Lizzi T

In our experiment, we took five monarch butterflies and observed them in a 6x6 foot tent in a meadow for thirty minutes.  We used two different flowers in each experiment and watched to see which nectar flower they preferred.  We measured how long the monarch was on the flower and how many times they nectared on it.  How does the color and height of a flower affect the nectar preference of a monarch butterfly?   In our first experiment, swamp milkweed was preferred over black eyed susan by three out of five monarchs.  In the second experiment, purple clover was preferred over daisy fleebane by four out of five monarchs.  The overall result was that monarchs like to nectar on purple or purplish-pink flowers.  Our only uncertainty was if the flowers age affected the nectar preference of the monarchs.  We learned that monarchs choose nectar by the color of the flower.  We also learned about the monarchs life style.  If we did this experiment again, we would find a way to measure the glucose.  This would have helped us understand the effect glucose has on the nectar preference.  We attempted this in our experiment using Glucose strips; the results werent accurate enough to use in our project.

Caged In!

Rachael G

What I did in my first experiment is I took four different size cages, three of each, and I put five 1st instars in each cage.  The cage sizes were deli (1.8 pints), shoebox (6 quarts), medium (15 quarts), and large (19 quarts).  These cages are clear plastic.  After I put the caterpillars in, I changed and put two new leaves of milkweed in every day.  Every third day, I weighed and took an average for each cage size of the caterpillars.  I did this until pupation.  In our experiment, I had three different treatments of milkweed.  I had two cages of each treatment.  I had milkweed leaves, frozen stalks of milkweed, and a fresh stalk of milkweed with a water tube.  Everyday I changed the leaves, and the frozen stalks.  Every other day I changed the stalk of milkweed.  I weighed the caterpillars every three days up to pupation. The purpose of my experiment was to find out what size cage is the most effective in a positive way on a caterpillar.  My other purpose was to find out how different milkweed treatments affect the weight of a caterpillar.  What I found out was that the medium sized cage is the best because they weighed .424 grams which were a little smaller than the rest but the cage size gave each caterpillar enough room to pupate.  They also didnt seem to feel threatened by one another for food.  The stalk with the water tube was the best because it stayed fresher longer and the caterpillars are able to receive more nutrients from it.  This increases their weight gain.

Frozen Milkweed Munchers

Courtney H, Genna S

In this experiment we took six caterpillars and put them in six different cages with one frozen leaf of milkweed.  We changed the milkweed three times a day to three of the caterpillars and two times a day to the other three caterpillars.  We did these experiments for four days and wanted to see how much frozen milkweed they would eat.  The ranges were from 14mm-52 mm for three times a day and 11.5mm-42mm for two times a day.  We wanted to find out, How does changing frozen milkweed two and three times a day affect the caterpillars weight and how much they eat?  We found out that if you feed caterpillars two times a day they will weigh more and will eat more.  The average amount eaten from two times a day was 32.3 cm2 and the weight gained was .4g.  The average amount eaten for the three times a day was 29.3 cm2 and a .11g weigh gain. We had some of the caterpillars molting during our experiments so they werent eating all of the time.  Next time we would make sure the larva had already molted then we would start the experiment.  We learned that larvae ate more frozen milkweed two times a day than three times a day.  We also learned that when you feed them three times a day they would gain more weight.

Heavy Weight Monarchs

Patrick S, Jon M

In an effort to determine how much additional weight a monarch butterfly could support during flight, a tent house was constructed for the insects.  The next step in the procedure included placing three butterflies into the tent.  The butterflies were numbered.  Stickers, weighing .1 gram each, were placed on butterfly #1.  The stickers were placed on the discal cell of alternating wings to ensure an even amount of weigh was placed on each wing.  The process was repeated for the remaining butterflies. The purpose of this experiment was to determine how much weight a monarch can support on its wings during flight.  The results showed that butterfly #1 carried 29 tags, totaling .39 grams along with it own body weight.  When the butterfly couldnt fly with any more stickers, it flew to the bottom of the tent (this result was repeated with the rest of the insects).  Butterfly #2 carried 39 tags, and it weighed .40 grams with its body weigh included.  Butterfly #3 carried the fewest tags.  It supported 18 tags, and it weighed .53 grams.  Butterfly #4 was outfitted with 30 tags, and it weighed .45 grams. The uncertainties in the experiment were that butterfly #3 dies, so butterfly #4 was used in its place.  The butterflies were a mix of male and female.  During the experiment, the butteflies stickers kept falling off their wings, which could have affected their flights.  Information that was learned includes that the butterflies that weighed the least amount were able to carry the most tags.  Secondly, butterflies are able to carry additional weight that is nearly equal to their own body weight.

How Does the Level of Humidity (High and Medium) Affect Egg Hatching Success and Larval Growth?

Sarah M

I conducted an experiment to measure how the level of humidity affects egg hatching and larval growth.  By creating a high and medium humidity environment, I would be able to record the effect of the humidity on egg hatching and larval growth.  The results indicate that egg hatching and larval growth are affected by the amount of humidity in the environment in which the eggs are placed.  Several conclusions can be made from this experiment; the percent of eggs hatching is similar in both environments however, the eggs hatched and pupated faster in the high humidity environment.  The adult monarchs in the high humidity environment had a very short life cycle.  The egg hatching in the medium humidity environment hatched and pupated at a normal pace and lived as an adult until their release. Why the high humidity affected the progress is unknown.  The indication of a shorter life cycle may be dependent on the high humidity or may be due to the crowded container used.  Through my experiment, I was able to determine that Minnesota climate is favorable to monarch caterpillars.   The amount of waste created by such a small creature is incredible.

Milkweed!  What Do They Prefer?

Sarah D

In my experiment I took six female monarch butterflies and put them in a cage with swamp milkweed and common milkweed for two hours to lay eggs.  Then, I took the 42 eggs from the swamp milkweed and the 36 eggs from the common milkweed and raised them to adulthood.  I measure their size as larvae, color as a larva, size of chrysalides, and weight of the butterflies at the end.  I wanted to find out what the monarch larva and butterflies preferred.  I found out that the female monarchs preferred swamp over common milkweed.  I also found out the swamp milkweed caterpillars were bigger and more colorful than common caterpillars.  The common ate more, and their chrysalides were bigger.  These butterflies weighed more when they hatched.  In this experiment, I found out that the swamp milkweed caterpillars were bigger at the beginning, but in the end the common milkweed butterflies were bigger and weighed more.   Some uncertainties that I encountered were: some of the common chrysalides had been in chrysalides when it got cold and they died.  Another was: why were the swamp milkweed caterpillars bigger, but the common caterpillars had a better survival rate?  In this experiment, I learned that the female monarchs prefer swamp milkweed over common milkweed.  I also learned the bigger the caterpillar doesnt always mean they will weigh more as an adult butterfly.

Move Those Hips (or Abdomens)!

Colin H, Michael B

We filled a large pool with sand and placed twelve bottles with common milkweed plants, six healthy on the edge and six unhealthy inside, in it.  Then we got six fifth instar monarch larvae and placed them in one at a time in the center of the pool and recorded which plant they went to and the time it took them to get there.  For the second trial, we placed the six healthy plants on the inside and the six unhealthy plants on the outside.  We wanted to find out how healthy and unhealthy milkweed affect how far a fifth instar monarch larvae travels and if it has a preference as to which type of milkweed it eats.   We found that since we didnt feed the larvae for five hours before the experiment, they were hungry and didnt seem to care whether or not it was healthy or unhealthy.  In the first trial, four out of six larvae went for the closest, the unhealthy plants, and in the second trial, five out of six went to the closest, only this time it was the healthy milkweed.  Our uncertainty is that they might not have been as picky if they werent so hungry.  If they were less hungry, they could have taken their time to find the perfect plant.  One new thing that we learned was that you need to work fast while dealing with fifth instars or they might go into the J stage during your project!  If we were to do a continuation of this project, we would want to vary the set up of the milkweed plants.

Survivor: Monarch

Clayton H

My experiment was to determine if monarch larvae could live and grow properly if their food supply was limited exclusively to common milkweed leaves, flowers, or stems.  In the field, I have only seen them eating leaves. For the experiment, I received 48 monarch eggs that were ready to hatch.  I transferred eight hatched monarch larvae into each of six plastic shoe boxes, then put one leaf, one bundle of flowers, or one length (about 6 inches) of stem into each pair of boxes.  I fed them a new leaf, flower, or stem daily, and measured them every other day.  Monarchs survived on each food type.  The leaf-eaters and flower-eaters grew normally and had normal weight and wingspans as adults.  The stem-eaters were smaller as larvae, matured slowly, had higher mortality, and as adults were smaller with shorter wingspans.  The growth rates may also have been affected by the food quantity.  The stem-eaters might have grown more if they had had more stems.  To test this, I would repeat the experiment ensuring that an excess of each food type was available.   I showed that monarchs can live on milkweed leaves, flowers, or stems alone.  I also learned that the days to chrysalis depends less on age than on size and weight.  The smaller larvae in all groups matured later than the larger ones.

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