University of Minnesota

Ecology Fair University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Abstracts from St. Hubert School 2007

St. Hubert School
8201 Main St
Chanhassen, MN 55317

Year: 2007
Teacher(s): Cindy Petersen

A Matter of Senses

Brian K

For my experiment, I wanted to find out if monarch butterflies use the sense of sight or smell to locate flowers for nectar. I set up my experiment by covering some flowers with plastic wrap so they could not be smelled, but could be seen; covering some with a light, black material so they could not be seen, but could be smelled; and leaving some uncovered. I then let the butterflies fly in a cage with two of the groups of flowers for ten minutes, and marked which ones they landed on. I did this three times for each pair: sight covered and smell covered; sight covered and control; and smell covered and control. It turned out that most butterflies would not land on the one that they could only smell, the one covered with the black material. This probably means that monarchs use sight, or sight combined with smell to find food, because both of the groups that could be seen (covered in plastic wrap and uncovered) were landed on an almost equal amount of times. This would make sense, because if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, then the flowers could be seen farther away than they could be smelled. One uncertainty I had was that maybe some of the flowers covered in plastic wrap were not fully covered and could still be smelled. Through this experiment, I learned how monarch butterflies probably find food. They use sight to find the bright colors of the flowers in a field of green.

Hungry, Hungry Caterpillars

Alex M

(Abstract not available)

Matter of the milkweed color

Matter if the milkweed color



          In this experiment we took yellow and green milkweed leaves to see which type 4th instar caterpillars prefer.  First we got one deli container with a top that had holes in it so the larvae could breath.  Then we got a moist paper towel and put it on the bottom of the container.  After that we got a 4th instar caterpillar and two yellow or green milkweed leaves that were measured on a grid to find their area before being placed in the container.  Then we put the larva in the container and put everything under a 16 hour light, we had 6 containers with yellow leaves and 6 with green.  We were trying to find out, �How does feeding a 4th instar caterpillar green or yellow milkweed affect the amount eaten.� 

          After we collected the data from the first day of the experiment we concluded that the result of the amount of green milkweed eaten was 5.7 cm2 for both days, and for yellow 3.4 cm2 was eaten for both days. 

          The hypothesis we decided to accept with was that 4th instar caterpillars will eat more of the green milkweed than yellow.  An uncertainty was that the caterpillars were somewhat forced to eat this type of milkweed and maybe they didn�t like it but ate it by force.   Some people could have measured incorrectly and would take 0.5 cm2 and turn it into 1 cm2.  Overall we had many trials and controlled our variables.

          We learned that you can�t assume that caterpillars like one more than the other, instead we have to do an experiment to make a hypothesis and come to a conclusion.  We also learned that not all monarch caterpillars eat the same amount of food, and that green milkweed probably has more nutrients than yellow.  If we did this experiment again we would use a 5th instar because they would want to eat more because they should be forming their chrysalis soon.   

Milkweed Madness

Kaylee B

I conducted two experiments both relating to the feeding of monarch caterpillars. In the first experiment I put ten first instars on common milkweed and eight first instars on swamp milkweed. I raised these caterpillars on this milkweed until they were third instars. I measured them daily to figure out if there is a difference in growth and development on common or swamp milkweed. In the second experiment I used twenty-two fourth and fifth instar caterpillars. I put them in separate deli dishes for seven hours with three equal amounts of common, swamp, and butterfly milkweed. After the seven hours I measured, in percentages, how much of each kind of milkweed they ate. My first question was, 'How does feeding two different groups of monarch caterpillars common or swamp milkweed affect their growth and development?' and my second question was, 'How does feeding fourth and fifth instar caterpillars three equal amounts of common, swamp, and butterfly milkweed affect how much the larvae eat?'.

For my first experiment, I concluded that monarch caterpillars develop and grow much quicker on common milkweed than swamp milkweed. For my second experiment, I concluded that monarch caterpillars prefer common milkweed. They ate 76.36% of common milkweed. They ate 46.59% of swamp milkweed. They ate 0.91% of butterfly milkweed. One uncertainty in my first experiment could have been not having nine larvae on each kind of milkweed. I had 10 on common milkweed and 8 on swamp milkweed. I learned that feeding larvae different kinds of milkweed can affect their growth and development and monarch larvae also have a preference over different kinds of milkweed.

Milkweed Munchers

Aly A, Haley B, Alex C, Sara F, Maddie K, Keagan K, Emily B

Milkweed Munchers

We divided the classroom into two groups to determine if caterpillars ate more frozen or fresh milkweed.  With a damp paper towel inside 12 cages, we added two fresh or frozen milkweed leaves.  We traced our leaves in a grid of squared centimeters to determine the area, put the leaves in the cage, added a 5th instar monarch caterpillar, and put it under the plant light set for summer conditions. The next day we retraced the leaves, and counted the centimeters squared to see how much milkweed was eaten.

 We concluded that caterpillars eat the same amount of fresh and frozen milkweed.  The 2nd day average for fresh milkweed eaten was 14.6 cm squared vs. 16.8 cm squared for frozen. The 3rd day average was14.3 cm squared for fresh vs.13.9 cm squared for frozen. The average milkweed eaten by 1 caterpillar over 48 hours was 14.5 cm squared of fresh and 15.4 cm squared for frozen milkweed; not a significant difference. Our class accepted the null hypothesis stating that caterpillars will eat the same amount of fresh as frozen milkweed.

Uncertainties crept into this experiment. Several 5th instar caterpillars went into a �J� position and did not eat, and many groups were counting the cm squared eaten so some error could occur.

We learned when caterpillars are faced with a decision to eat fresh or frozen milkweed, it doesn�t matter. We would ask further questions like; who would grow healthier; caterpillars that eat fresh or frozen milkweed? The next time we experiment; we would choose newly molted 4th instars that are big and eat enough to conduct an experiment on.

Milkweed Mystery

Lucy N

Lucy Nickolay Milkweed Mystery I did three experiments to determine which species of milkweed female monarchs prefer to lay their eggs on. I took 2-3 monarchs and put them in a cage for 5 hours each day for 3 days during the month of August. In experiment 1, I used the 3 different species of milkweed (swamp, common, butterflyweed, and the milkweed mimic, dogbane). In experiment 2, I used short (3cm) verse tall (10cm) common milkweed to look for the egg laying preferences, and in experiment 3, I used healthy verse unhealthy milkweed. The female monarchs seem to prefer laying eggs on swamp milkweed to the others. The swamp milkweed had 55 eggs on it and common milkweed had 18 eggs. Both butterflyweed and dogbane had 0 eggs on it. They laid equal amounts of eggs on short and tall common milkweed. The monarchs preferred healthy milkweed with 18 eggs to unhealthy milkweed with 2 eggs. I accepted the hypothesis that stated monarchs prefer to lay their eggs on swamp milkweed for experiment 1, and for experiment 2, that monarchs don�t have a preference between short and tall milkweed. For experiment 3 monarchs prefer to lay their eggs on healthy milkweed. Even though I believe the data shows a trend there could have been some uncertainties. For example I could have miscounted or missed some eggs. Overall, I learned that monarchs don�t fall for dogbane the milkweed mimic. I also learned that monarchs prefer to lay their eggs on swamp milkweed. I think the experiments were a success.

Monarch Mayhem

Nellie B

For my science fair project, I wanted to do something new and practical.  I came up with my question because I wanted to find out how the condition of milkweed plants (healthy, diseased, herbivory, and chemically deformed) affect the number of eggs an adult monarch will lay on each plant. I also wanted to find out how the condition of milkweed plants (healthy, diseased, herbivory, and chemically deformed) affect the growth and development of the monarch caterpillars feeding on the milkweed. To find results to my first question, I needed 3 pregnant female monarchs and 6 stems of all the milkweed types. I put the monarchs inside a cage and counted how many eggs they laid on each plant. For the next question placed 5 caterpillars on each milkweed variety and measured their growth over the larva stage.

             I found out that monarchs prefer to lay eggs on the healthy milkweed, and did not use the deformed milkweed often. This makes sense because the healthy plants looked better then the deformed plants. The herbivory plant was used 2nd most often. That also makes sense because it looked better then the diseased one, which was used the least. I accepted the hypothesis, which stated that the highest number of eggs would be laid on the healthy milkweed.

            For the second question, I found that caterpillars that were on the healthy milkweed developed the fastest largest. The caterpillars eating the deformed milkweed became pupas the longest time, but caterpillars eating the diseased milkweed were the smallest. These results concede the healthy milkweed is the best for the monarchs to use from growing to laying eggs. Therefore, I accept hypothesis 2 which stated that the caterpillars on the healthy milkweed grow the largest and fastest.

            In my experiment an uncertainty might have been bacteria or other microorganisms present that would affect their growth. A new thing I learned was that if I am looking for caterpillars I should look on healthy plants. If I were to continue this project I might want to find out what condition of milkweed gives the monarchs most energy.

Munch, Munch

Aly H

   What is the survival rate of monarch larvae in all of the stages when given common milkweed and common milkweed with insecticidal soap? Well, I can tell you that, but I'm going to have to tell you that later. To start my experiment, first I had to gather my materials. The core of my project is monarch larvae, so I had to get 50 eggs. I had to wait for them to hatch before starting the rest of my experiment. While I was waiting for the eggs to hatch, I had to everything else, which included 10 cages to hold the larvae, and 10 water tubes. I also had to go out and collect milkweed and buy the insecticidal soap.                     

   Once the larvae had hatched, I put five of them in each cage. I had five 1st instars eating just plain common milkweed, and then five 1st instars eating common milkweed that was sprayed with insecticidal soap. I did the same thing with the 2nd-5th instars as well. I went to collect milkweed about every week from Spring Peeper Meadow, I did that so the milkweed wouldn't get that old. Then when I got home, I put the milkweed in the fridge. When the larvae were ready to have some milkweed, I put the stems in the water tubes so they wouldn't stay fresher longer. I usually changed the water every day, and the milkweed usually lasted 3-5 days with the water. I also monitored the larvae when they were in chysalides. Well, now I can tell you the results of my experiment. About 60% of the 1st instars died right away, 30% died when they were 2nd instars, and about 10% died when the were 3rd instars. Most of the 2nd and 3rd instars died when they were in the 4th and 5th instar.But a mere 5% survived all the way through adult. None of the 4th or 5th instars died through the whole time I worked with them. The survival rate was about 40%, which is for all of the instars. When they all got to be adults, I let them go free into the wild. One of my uncertainties for my experiment, was that I may have measured the caterpillars wrong. Like I might have been off by a few centimeters. But that was really all of the uncertainties that I have. I really hope you enjoyed my experiment, because I sure did! 

Munchy Monarchs

Sarah P, Taylor R



In our experiment half of our class tested monarch caterpillar's eating habits in the light and the other half tested monarch caterpillar's eating habit in the dark. We wanted to find out how much common milkweed Monarch caterpillars ate in the light or the dark.

We found that, on average a caterpillar ate about 8cm2 more in the dark that in the light after 48 hours passed. The monarch caterpillars ate about 16.9cm2 on average in the light and 24.9cm2, on average, in the dark. The hypothesis that we accepted was that monarch caterpillars would eat more in the dark. Since we did this experiment as a class there were some uncertainties. One was that all groups might not have measured accurately. Also, some 5th instars pupated during the experiment. If we did this experiment again we would use 4th instar caterpillars instead of 5th instar caterpillar. We would also put more milkweed in the container to give them more to eat because sometimes they would eat every part of the leaf except for the main vein. We learned that although we did do this experiment and got an answer we didn't prove anything, but our data suggests that monarch caterpillars eat more common milkweed in the dark than in the light. They never seem to stop eating.


Emily S

    In my experiment, I placed ten monarch butterflies in a cage with honey-water, lemon-lime Gatorade, watermelon, a milkweed flower, and hummingbird nectar.  For five days I observed and recorded the number of times the butterflies went to each nectar, to determine their two favorite types.  After determining their two favorites, I separated the butterflies into two separate cages each with one of the favorite nectars inside.  Every few days I weighed the butterflies.  I wanted to find out how the two nectars affected the butterflies weight and health.

    Their favorite nectars were the milkweed flower and hummingbird nectar.  Because of the summer drought, it was hard to keep a fresh supply of milkweed flowers and the monarchs feeding on it were dying.  I changed that nectar to their third favorite, which was Gatorade.  The average change in weight for the Gatorade butterflies was -0.20 grams and for the hummingbird nectar butterflies it was +0.005 grams.  I found that the butterflies made the most trips to the hummingbird nectar, and it was healthier than the milkweed and the Gatorade.

    The data in my experiment does seem reasonable, but the numbers are fairly close.  Towards the end of my experiment, the sample size became smaller and smaller.  My results would have been more reliable if I had more butterflies. 

    In my experiment, I learned that hummingbird nectar is one of the healthiest nectars for monarch butterflies, and they like it too.  If I redid this experiment, I would use a bigger sample size of butterflies to increase the amount of data.  


Refrigerator Hater???

Erin C

Have you ever gotten tired of picking fresh milkweed every day for your monarch larvae? Well, I did an experiment to show that you don't have to pick fresh milkweed every single day. Instead you can pick milkweed every one week to two weeks and keep it in the refrigerator. In my experiment, I started with 30 first instar monarch larvae in six different cages. There were five in each cage. I fed each of my six groups of monarch larvae either fresh milkweed, milkweed that has been in the refrigerator for one week, or milkweed that has been in the refrigerator for two weeks. The names of the groups were Fresh A, Fresh B, One Week A, One Week B, Two Weeks A, and Two Weeks B. I fed all of the groups of larvae the same amount of common milkweed, or Asclepias Syriaca, and I measured them every two days. Then I took the average of growth for the five larvae per each cage. Next I looked to see if they developed the same amount or if one developed a lot faster than the others. After they came out of their chrysalides, I measured their wing length to see if they were all around the same size. Most of the male butterflies had defects in their wings, only one female had defective wings, but those with crumpled wings weren't all in the same group or type of milkweed. Now, for the results, the highest growth average for every two days was the Milkweed that has been in the refrigerator for two weeks. The Fresh got second, but that is not what you expected is it? So if you ask me, I'd say that you don't have to pick milkweed every day, you can leave it in the fridge for a couple weeks.


Haley E, Sarah M

There are small mites that live on Madagascar Hissing Cockroach and many people have mixed ideas on if they are dangerous or harmless. There have been many theories about them being parasites. If they were, how should we remove them? So, we decided to test cockroaches for how well different substances removed the mites. We put the cockroaches in either flour, a tbsp. of insecticidal soap with a cup of water, or a cup of water. Then we shook them for 60 seconds. We used three different cockroaches for each substance. When we let them sit&tbsp;alone for 16 days, we rated them at 2 hours, 8 days, and 16 days. We compiled the ratings and then concluded the results. We found that flour most effectively removed the mites and water removed them least effectively. When we finished this part of the experiment, we decided to also test how long it took for mites to come back in an environment with mites already present and in an environment without any mites. Then we also tested how long could mites live on their own with the same food we fed the cockroaches. We ended up with the results that 3 of the 4 mites survived without the cockroaches. Plus, the rate of mites coming back was about the same in the different environments. The ones living with mites came back slightly faster than the other that were without did. We can also conclude that the mites and cockroaches do not need each other but probably benefit from other each.

Stimuli Situation

Alexis G

The purpose of my experiment was to find out how different types of stimuli (vinegar, vanilla, whistling, and clapping) affect the reactions of monarch larvae and adults. My other purpose was to determine how many times monarch larvae and adults need to be exposed to the stimuli before they habituate. I set up my experiment by seperating 45 larvae into groups of 5 with their own cages. Each cage was labeled with the name of the stimuli they were going to be tested with. I then tested each larvae with the stimuli (I did this about 1-3 times a day). I clapped or whistled at the ones labeled "clapping" or "whistling", and put vinegar or vanilla on a q-tip and placed it in front of the larvae or butterflies labeled "vinegar" and "vanilla". I tested the monarch larvae and adults, recording their reactions, until most had habituated. My results were very interesting. For the scent stimuli (vanilla and vinegar) the larvae tended to move their head or move away. For the sound stimuli (clapping or whistling) the larvae would stop moving, or "freeze". For all the stimuli, the butterflies just tried to move away (flying or crawling). They often tried to push the source of the scent stimuli away. Because of these results, I accept the hypotheses that state that the larvae/adults will move away from the source of the stimuli and that the larvae/adults will freeze when they sense the stimuli. My average for 2nd instars, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, and adult butterflies was 3 repetitions to habituate to all the stimuli. Because of this information, I accept my 3rd hypothesis which states that the monarch larvae and adults will habituate in 3 repetitions. One major uncertainty I had was not having enough sample sizes of each of the larvae instar stages. this could have affected my outcome. I learned a lot from my experiment, I learned the answers to both of my questions. This experiment makes me want to find out how the larvae would react to stimuli that affect different senses, like something they taste or see or feel. It would be very interesting to compare these results.

Trapped! It's A Bug's Life

Connor O

     In my experiment I wanted to find out how different areas within a prairie site affected the quantity, distribution, and biodiversity of arthropods. My 3 questions were, �How does using tangle trap and pit trap collections in a meadow and hillside affect the quantity, distribution and biodiversity of arthropod orders found?�, �How does placing the traps next to milkweed and away from milkweed affect the quantity distributions and biodiversity of arthropod orders found?�, and How does the time of the month and the weather affect the quantity, distribution and biodiversity of arthropod orders found?

     There was not much difference between the hillside and the meadow using the Simpson index for biodiversity but the quantity was a little different. It turned out that 2/3 of the total number of arthropods was files. 

     There was not much difference in the biodiversity or quantity of arthropods found from traps set by milkweed and away from milkweed.  The data for the traps by milkweed is more consistent than the traps being away from milkweed which has more scattered numbers. 

     My final comparison between August 13-19 and August 25-31 is a little more unbalanced.  Week 1 is more diverse than week 2. In this comparison not only was I testing the quantity, distribution and biodiversity, but I was also testing if weather affected the numbers. I think that the rainfall affected the data because the temperatures are very close and it was much wetter in week 1 than week 2.   

An uncertainty I had was if I might�ve missed a few bugs when counting them.

     I learned was that there is not a huge difference in biodiversity between different areas within a prairie but that it is weather that might affect the populations.

TROUBLE BELOW: The Examination of the Habitat Preferences of Exotic Earthworms

Teddy S

TROUBLE BELOW:  The Examination of the Habitat Preferences of Exotic Earthworms


Teddy W. Stewart-Hester

St. Hubert�s School, Chanhassen, Minnesota, USA


The purpose of the project was to determine if earthworms in the forest, prairie, and backyard regions prefer to live beneath the surface at the base of a tree, 5 feet away or 10 feet away. Understanding the worms� habitats will help to impede their rapid forest decomposition through discovering solutions to control the worm population. At each site, a 50cm2 area of soil was cleared of topsoil and debris. One-gallon of water, mixed with 1/3 cup ground yellow mustard seed, was poured over the areas. Because the mustard solution acts as a skin irritant, worms appeared at the surface.  Once the worms emerged, they were counted and categorized according to size and pigment. The experiment was replicated in the regions nine times beneath three tree types. At the sites, three trials were performed at the base of each tree, 5 feet away and 10 feet away. After the July/August testing, experiments were conducted in September that repeated the experiment with two trees at each setting. There were 404 worms living at the bases of trees, 350 worms at 5 feet away, and 372 worms emerged at 10 feet away. Fifty-five percent of the worms were found in the backyard setting, with 34 percent in the forest and 11 percent in the prairie. In the forest, an average of 76 worms were found near each tree, with 24.8 worms near each prairie tree and 24.4 in the backyard. Multiple outcome hypotheses were written to prevent bias.  The null hypothesis was accepted. It stated the amount of worms living below the earth�s surface in a 50cm2 area is not determinant upon the distance at or away from a base of a tree. 

Where Are The Worms?

Edward M

To set up my experiment, I put 1/3 cup of dry mustard in a gallon of water and poured it to see how many worms there was in that certain area.  My question was: How does the area (dirt, forest, or woodchips) effect how large the worm population is?  In my experiment, I noticed that the more underbrush there was, the more worms were present. The largest worms always came up last suggesting that they live the furthest down.  The average number of the worms under dirt was about 4, under the wood chips was about 9, and lastly, in the forest, the average number of worms was 35.  In that case, I accepted the hypothesis which said, the forest area will have the greatest number of worms.  
    Some errors might�ve been a little variance in the amount of mustard used to bring up the worms or water.  Another might have been the temperature, being that worms burrow down in warmer temperatures. I learned that fishermen and landscapers are mostly responsible for the destruction of the forests.  It was important that I know were the worms are so then I know what to plant in my yard to deter the worms or to restore the forests.  If I were to do the experiment again, I would measure the number of worms by the driveway and sidewalks after it rains.  I also could just pour water to see how much the mustard was actually needed.  Another thing I could do is see how far away form certain things like a tree would the most worms would be.

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