University of Minnesota

Ecology Fair University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Abstracts from St. Hubert School 2004

St. Hubert School
8201 Main St
Chanhassen, MN 55317

Year: 2004
Teacher(s): Cindy Petersen

Aphid Alert!

Max F, Collin A, Liz D

To set up our experiment, we took three boxes, then we took tropical milkweed, swamp milkweed, and mum plants. We put one of each plant in each box so we had a total of 9 plants. We placed 10 aphids in each plant. Every day we counted the number of aphids on each plant. At the end of four days we could see how much they reproduced and colonized. Then at the end, we averaged each plant. Our purpose was to see how mums, tropical milkweed, and swamp milkweed affect aphid colonization and reproduction. After four days of experimenting and recording daily colonization, we found that there were 73 aphids on the tropical milkweed, 45 on the swamp milkweed, and 0 on the mum plant. We had a few uncertainties. One error was that we believe the aphids fell off or, as adults, flew away so we lost some of them. Also, it was very challenging to count the aphids on the mum plant. It was hard because there are so many leaves so we didn't know if we counted them correctly. The new things we learned from this project was what an aphid really is. We also learned that aphids prefer tropical milkweed over swamp milkweed and a mum plant. If we were to do this experiment over again, we would substitute another milkweed plant in place of the mums.   

Cool Caterpillars

Stephanie K

To set up my experiment I took eight petri dishes and put in ten monarch butterfly eggs, that were on milkweed leaves, in each petri dish. I labeled each dish as its treatment for the number of days they would be in the refrigerator (0,2,4,6,8,10,12,14.). I put all petri dishes 2-14 in the. When the eggs in a treatment hatched, I recorded how long it took them to hatch, then I took the first five and raised them for the second part of my experiment. During my experiment I wanted to find out how the cool temperature surrounding monarch eggs would affect the growth and development through its metamorphosis. I wanted to discover how cold eggs can survive in cold temperatures in early spring. I also wanted to know how long eggs can be held before using them for research. I discovered that the less time a monarch egg stayed in cool temperatures, the quicker the growth and healthier the adult . Eggs from 0-4 day treatment all survived to adulthood. In the 6 and 8 day treatment two caterpillars died. In the 10 day treatment they made it to second instars stage, the 12 day treatment one had hatched but died a few hours later. In the 14 day treatment two hatched but but also died a few hours later. The monarchs were affected most in their instar stages, and not many differences were noticed in the pupa and adult stage. I am uncertain about if the quality if milkweed was equal. Also the filter paper dried up in the refrigerator and leaves crumpled. However I did try to keep the filter paper moist by dampening it every three days. Also in the 12 and 14 day treatment the leaves molded. I learned that warmer temperatures help monarch eggs hatch, and the organism develops faster and healthier. Something new I would ask: How does the length of time spent in cold temperatures affect the development of monarchs when placed in the cold treatment during their various instar stages?

Food Frenzy

Sarah D, Kelsey B

In our experiment we got a butterfly tent and twelve monarch butterflies. We weighed each of the butterflies at the beginning of the project. We mixed water with: apple juice, Kool Aid, sugar, and honey to make 20% sugar solutions in each mixture. We put the nectar on sponges and put them in the tent. We placed the monarchs in groups of three on each of the four nectars. We then timed each butterfly to see how long they nectared on the sponge for up to a half hour. We tested the monarchs three times over nine days. At the end, we weighed the monarchs again. We wanted to find out, “What types of nectar (apple juice, Kool Aid, sugar water, honey water) monarch butterflies prefer and grow best on?” The monarchs butterflies preferred the honey water as their main choice, with sugar water in second, Kool Aid in third, and apple juice in forth based on their nectaring times. Some things in our experiment were difficult to assess. We couldn’t tell if the monarch was actually drinking the nectar we provided. We could see the proboscises out but we couldn’t see if it was actually drinking. We were also uncertain if the time of the day affected our outcome. Sometimes we would test the monarchs in the morning and they wouldn’t be as hungry as if they were in the afternoon. Two new things we learned were; monarchs prefer regular nectars like honey water and sugar water over Kool Aid and apple juice and that when monarchs first emerge, they don’t eat as much as when they have been out of their chrysalids for a longer period of time.

Fresh or Refrigerated?

Alex L

In my experiment, I took 40 monarch caterpillars, put ten in four different clear plastic containers, and fed each container of larvae common milkweed. One container received fresh milkweed daily, one container received milkweed refrigerated for 3 days, one container received milkweed that was refrigerated for 7 days, and one container received milkweed refrigerated for 14 days. I wanted to find out how the freshness of common milkweed affects how much monarch caterpillars eat and grow. I found out that monarch caterpillars eating common milkweed refrigerated for 14 days were the largest butterflies and the largest caterpillars overall. The average weights for the adult monarchs for fresh was.36 grams, for 3 day it was .52 grams, for 7 day it was .50 grams and for 14 day it was .59 grams. One thing that might have affected the results is that all of the caterpillars eating fresh milkweed died, so I decided to redo that part of the experiment: The milkweed they ate was picked 2 weeks later than the 3 day, 7 day, and 14 day milkweed. I learned that you can refrigerate common milkweed for 2 weeks and it's still good enough for the caterpillars to eat. I also learned that monarch caterpillars can get really big and the bigger the caterpillar, the bigger the butterfly.

Hold On!!!

Megan H, Nikki E

In our experiment we used emerged chrysalids to see how much weight a cremaster and silk pad could hold on wood and plastic. We attathced sewing thread to the cremaster and hung a paper box from the thread so it hung under the chrysalis. We then placed real pennies in the box, one at a time, until the cremaster and silk pad broke and the chrysalis fell. We then weighed the box, thread, and pennies to track how much wweight (in grams) each cremaster and silk pad can hold. We wanted to find out on average how much weight (in grams) each cremaster and silk pad could hold.

We also tested if a cremaster and silk pad would hold better if the silkpad was spun on wood or plastic. We found that the average weight a cremaster and silk pad could hold on the wood was 164.67 grams (53 pennies). The average weight a cremaster and silk pad can hold on plastic was 48.005 grams (19.5 pennies).

Generally, we can conclude that a cremaster and silkpad attached to wood is stronger than one attached to plastic. One uncertainty that could have affected our findings was the way the baskets were attached to the cremaster. It was possible we all could have tied the knots differently. New things that we learned from this experiment were that a cremaster and silk pad an hold a pretty good amount of weight for their size and that they were only attached to an object such as wood and plastic by small strands of silk. We also learned that the average weight a cremaster and silk pad could hold varied on wood and on plastic. We had the opportunity to further extend our knowledge of dependent and independent variables and we learned how to draw scatter plots and bar graphs. One last question we still have is will it make a difference on how old the chyrsalis shell is?

How to Eat Like a Monarch

Allison O, Peter M

We took 12 monarchs and divided them into 4 groups of 3 butterflies. We put them on sponges containing cherry-watermelon, grape, and orange Kool-aid and plain sugar-water. Each day for 4 days, we nectared the monarchs and timed how long they nectared. We wanted to see which nectars affect a monarch's weight and growth. Our data suggested that the monarchs liked sugar-water the most (an average time of 9:16), followed by orange Kool-aid (an average of 5:35), then grape Kool-aid (an average of 2:55), and finally cherry-watermelon Kool-aid (an average of 1:48).

Light Flight!

Becky S, Meredith W

How does light color affect monarch butterflies? In this group experiment, we used two tents, 14 butterflies, and 5 different color light bulbs. We broke up into two groups, each one did different color combinations. Each group had one tent and seven butterflies. First we hooked up two lamps, each with a different side. Then we would turn out the lights, and turn on the lamps and we would see how many butterflies went to each color light bulb. The purpose of this experiment was to find out what light color was the most popular for butterflies to go to. We found that yellow was the most popular color. Sixty-nine butterflies went to the yellow bulb with all of the trials added up. White was second, with sixty-seven butterflies. Green was the third, with 28 butterflies, blue was the second-to-last, with twenty-four butterflies, and red was last with twenty-two butterflies. The hypothesis that I accepted was monarch butterflies are most attracted to yellow light. One uncertainty we have about our monarch project is the movement. The monarch butterflies sat on all sides of the net around the tent and when the colored lights were turned on, they stayed where they were. To help them move, we picked them up and dropped the in the center of the tent. From there, they would fly to the light of their choice. The uncertainty about this was where we dropped the butterflies. We didn't always drop them exactly in the center and, because of this, the monarchs might have just flown to the nearest light. If we were to do this experiment again, we would test if the data changed depending on if they were male or female. We would do this by putting seven males and seven females in two different tents. We would test the same colored lights on both tents and compare the data to see if they were attracted more to different colors than others.

Marvelous Multi-colored Milkweed

Mike P

In our experiment we placed nine, fourth instar, monarch caterpillars into nine deli containers. We put two blue-dyed leaves into three of the containers each day (six blue leaves each day in all), and we did the same for red and normal green-colored common milkweed. Each leaf we put used was first traced on graph paper to find the area. Every day we came back and measured how much the caterpillars had eaten of each color of milkweed. We wanted to find out how the color of common milkweed affected how much a monarch larva eats. Our experiment's data showed that monarch larvae eat more of blue-dyed milkweed than red-dyed or normal colored common milkweed.Over the four days of the experiment, caterpillars eating blue milkweed ate an average of 109 square centimeters, those eating red ate 69 square centimeters, and those eating normal milkweed ate 65 square centimeters. We also made some observations of the monarch larvae during our experiment. We noticed that the frass was tinted the color of milkweed they were eating, but their actual bodies didn't change color much. There were several uncertainties in our experiment. The first was that some days caterpillars were molting and ate very little milkweed, if they ate any at all. A second and probably more important uncertainty was that one of the caterpillars eating blue milkweed died, reducing the amount of data we could use. Also with the caterpillars eating blue milkweed, one of the larva ate almost twice as much as any other caterpillar, and since there were only two caterpillars that we could get data from, it greatly increased the average amount eaten by caterpillars eating blue milkweed. Because of this, the amount blue milkweed eaten may be artificially high. In this experiment we learned that the monarch larvae will eat dyed milkweed and it seems to affect the color of their frass. Next time if I were to do this experiment, I'd have larger sample sizes. If I did another experiment, it would be to give them a choice between colors to see which one they prefer.

MIghty Migrating Monarchs

Molly L, Miles C, Aaron C

In our experiment we measured the vanishing bearing of 23 monarchs on a day when the wind was west at 15mph and 40 monarchs on a day when the wind was approximately 5mph from the south west. We wanted to find out how wind direction, wind speed, and weight affect the direction monarchs fly. The vanishing bearings we did with the 23 monarchs showed that most flew east, with the wind. The second group mostly flew in scattered directions because it was a calmer day and they were free to fly anywhere. They started flying south, but the wind was blowing them in different directions. Gender did not seem to make a difference in the direction they flew. Some errors were that the group may not have taken accurate vanishing bearings or they gave them to the recorder incorrectly. We learned that monarchs don't necessarily start their migration by flying southwest, and that it is difficult to release monarchs with a large group.

Monarchs and Milkweed

Maddie E

In my experiment, I wanted to find out if the condition of milkweed affects how many eggs a pregnant monarch lays. To do this, I combined the results of five experiments testing different milkweed conditions. In each experiment, I placed three pregnant monarchs in a tent along with the the different treatments of milkweed. The treatments were, common vs. swamp, green common milkweed vs. yellow common milkweed, herbivorized common milkweed vs. non-herbivorized common milkweed, pesticide-sprayed common milkweed vs. clean common milkweed, and tall common milkweed vs. short common milkweed. After three hours of potential egg laying, I took the butterflies out and counted the number of eggs that were laid on each plant. In the yellow vs. green experiment, they laid 124 eggs on the green and 32 on the yellow milkweed. In the herbivory vs. non-herbivory, they laid 12 eggs on the non-herbivorized plant and 2 on the herbivorized plant. In the butterfly vs. common vs. swamp, they laid eight on the common, nine on the butterfly weed, and ten on the swamp milkweed. In the tall vs. short experiment, they laid seventy-five on the tall and eight on the short. In the sprayed vs. clean experiment, they laid six on the clean and fourteen on the sprayed. Two uncertainties I had in my experiment were temperature and type of light. Variation in temperature may have caused the monarchs to lay more or less eggs. In my final experiment (clean vs. sprayed), I had to use artificial light due to the fact that it was too cold for the monarchs to lay outside in the tent. This may have affected the monarchs' senses, resulting in them laying more on the sprayed plant than on the clean. In this experiment I learned that female monarchs, for the most part, can tell which is the best plant to lay on. This ability may, possibly be altered, when things aren't under natural conditions. If I were to do another experiment, I would want to answer the question, "Does quality of nectar affect how many eggs a female monarch lays?"

Nine on Nectar

Sarah W, Kristine K

Nine butterflies were labeled, and over a period of three days, the amount of time they spent drinking three different flavored nectars was recorded. Each nectar was a 20% sugar water solution, one flavored with peppermint abstract,one with maple extract,and one plain sugar water nectar for the control. In doing this experiment, our purpose was to find if the scent or the taste of nectar affects how long a monarch butterfly drinks. We concluded that the difference in the amount of time the butterflies drank from each nectar was not significant enough to accept any hypothesis except the null hypothesis, which was that they would drink the same amount of each nectar. Over the three days they spent an average of 16.00 minutes on the peppermint, 15.25 minutes on the maple, and 14.26 minutes on the control treatment. It was tricky to time the actual drinking time. Some butterflies would curl up their proboscis, as if they were done, but then uncurl it and begin to drink again. The timers may not have been consistent with one another as to their timing. We learned that it does not matter what the nectar tastes like, butterflies will drink it!

Sugar Rush

Laura W, Meredith M

In our experiment, we took twelve monarch butterflies and placed them all in one tent. We took four sponges and placed one liquid on each sponge. The liquids were Sierra Mist, Gatorade, 20% sugared Kool Aid, and 20% honey water. We placed the monarchs on the sponges, three on each nectar source, for three days during class and timed how long they nectared. We wanted to find out which of the four nectars monarchs prefer.  After 3 days, we found out that monarchs nectared an average of 622 seconds on honey water, 281 seconds for Sierra Mist, 239 seconds for Gatorade, and 279 seconds for Kool Aid. There were a few uncertainties in our group.  First of all, we had two or three monarchs die, so we had to use two different monarchs. Also we only did this for three days. The monarchs may have been hungry after the experiment ended. In this experiment, we learned that monarch butterflies prefer honey water and like it best. We think this is important because now we know what to feed our butterflies. We also learned how to work together in an experiment. Monarchs are very picky about their food. We really liked doing this experiment, and it was very different than working alone.

The Chill Factor

Colleen R

My experiment is about the survival of monarch butterflies in dark vs. light, and cold (refrigerator) and warm (bathroom) temperatures. In the cold and warm temperature, there were also light and dark treatments. The monarchs were in the light or dark for 24 hours except for feeding. They were fed at room temperature (24 degrees Celsius) in a tent. They were kept in a box in cold (dark, 5 degrees Celsius and light, 10 degrees Celsius) and warm (dark, 20 degrees Celsius and light, 25 degrees Celsius). There were 32 monarchs in this experiment, eight in each treatment. Once a week, for four weeks, I measured the weight and survival of the 32 monarchs. I conducted the experiment because I wanted to find out if the temperature and light verses dark affected monarch survival and weight. My results were that the cold temperature helped the monarchs survive longer, both in the light and dark. The gender did not affect the survival and weight gain. All of the monarchs in the warm treatment died within the first three weeks. Only six monarchs survived all four weeks, three in the cold/light treatment and three in the cold/dark. The weight of the surviving monarchs remained fairly stable throughout the experiment. Most of the monarchs weighed under .4 grams at the start of the experiment, and I wondered if they would have had a higher survival rate if they had been heavier. In warm temperatures, do they need natural light to survive because of their activity level? I learned that monarchs live longer in the cold, possibly because they metabolize slower than in the warm temperatures. I also learned that gender does not seem to be a factor in survival under the conditions that I tested. I conducted the experiment

The Hungry Caterpillar- Does it Matter Which Part of the Milkweed Plant Monarchs Eat?

Katie Z

In this experiment, I fed four independent groups of ten caterpillars, beginning with first instars, different parts of the milkweed plant: the stems, the leaves, the seedpods, and the flowers. My purpose was to see whether or not caterpillars can survive on other parts of the milkweed plant besides the leaves. The results were as follows: the group that was given only milkweed stems, all died within two days of the beginning of the experiment; the group that was given only leaves, had the second lowest survival rate and the slowest rate of growth; the group that was given only seedpods, had six of the ten caterpillars survive and also had the second quickest growth rate; and finally, the group that was given only milkweed flowers had seven of the ten caterpillars survive and the fastest growth rate. One uncertainty of my experiment could be that I only had ten caterpillars in each group and if that was a large enough base to get reliable results. My data suggests that it does matter which part of the milkweed plant a caterpillar eats for its optimum growth.

The Sweeter the Better?

Lauren C

In my experiment, I had five monarchs in each of the four tents (males and females seperated in each tent.).  Each tent had a different honey-water concentration (5%, 10%, 20%, and 40%.).  I weighed each monarch every three days for a month. I conducted this experiment to find out how the concentration of honey-water affected the weight/survival of the monarch butterflies.  I found out that the most weight gain and survival rate happened in 10% concentration.  No butterflies died and they gained an average of .8 grams during the total month.  Twenty-percent came next highest with almost the same results but a higher mortality percentage. Then came 5% and 40% concentrations with a much higher mortality and lower weight gain.  I was unsure of some things because this occurred in captivity, meaning it occurred indoors and not in a natural setting.  I was also uncertain because I ended up using a small sample size (five monarchs per treatment) so the results varied.  I learned that 10% concentration of honey-water is better than the preferred and recommended 20%, but not by much. I also learned that having a longer time to conduct the experiment is better because then it shows more accurate results.

You Are What You Eat!

Katie C

In my primary experiment, I placed ten first instar monarch caterpillars in each of three plastic cages and fed one group young milkweed, another group medium age milkweed, and the last group old milkweed. Over their larval, pupae, and adult stages, I measured their growth in length, how rapidly they developed, and how many survived. I wanted to research how feeding monarchs varying ages of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) affects caterpillar length, development, and survival.  The monarch caterpillars that consumed young milkweed grew an average of .38cm longer than the caterpillars that consumed medium, and .98cm longer than the caterpillars that consumed old.  One interesting pattern I documented was that most of the caterpillars in the young subject group were developing a full instar ahead of those in the medium age and old groups. My data also indicated that the caterpillars who consumed the young milkweed produced adult butterflies that had the largest left wing span.

In my second experiment, I placed one pregnant female monarch in each of three net cages. Cage one had two full upright stalks of common milkweed. In tent two, the common milkweed stalks were upside down, and in tent three, there were two sideways stalks of common milkweed. Over a three-day period, I observed where, when, and how many eggs the butterflies laid on each plant.  I wanted to research how the orientation of a milkweed plant affects where the female monarch lays her eggs. Each day the butterflies were monitored for a five hour period between noon and 5pm. The monarchs laid six eggs on the top of the upright common milkweed stalks. No eggs were laid on either the sideways or upside down milkweed stalks. I observed the butterflies attempting to fly away from the milkweed stalks that were not in the upright position.



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