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Ecology Fair University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Abstracts from St. Hubert School 2009

St. Hubert School
8201 Main St
Chanhassen, MN 55317

Year: 2009
Teacher(s): Cindy Petersen

Antsy Ants

Brenna M

Antsy Ants was a project that involved hard-work, discoveries and fun! I wanted to find out how does the distance (5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 70, or 90 centimeters) of where the foods are placed (hot dog, watermelon, banana, bread, pretzel or cheese) affect the number of ants visiting each group of food. Before the project even started I had to find all my materials, including an isolated anthill. Next I collected all my 6 pieces of (hot dog, watermelon, banana, bread, pretzel and cheese) of food and placed them 3 inches away from the edge of the anthill. Every 5 minutes, for 30 minutes, I counted the number of ants at each piece of food. After, I calculated the top two foods and used those for the next part of my experiment. For Part 2 of my experiment I placed watermelon and hotdog, my two highest food choices 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 70, and 90 centimeters away from the hill. I then counted the ants for an hour and calculated their favorite food. The results were fascinating. The ants went no further than 70 centimeters to receive food. The food they most preferred was hot dog opposed to banana, watermelon, bread, pretzel and cheese. This suggested that the ants tested preferred foods high in protein against foods high in sugar and carbohydrates.


BeetleMania

Laura K

For my experiment, I made traps out of buckets and chicken wire and inserted a piece of chicken in the bottom. I placed three buckets in the woods and three buckets in a swampy area. Every day for eight days, I went out and checked on the chicken and recorded how many insects were present. I also recorded what percent of the chicken had decomposed. I wanted to find out how placing traps baited with chicken in the woods and near a swamp affect the number of decomposers visiting the traps and the percent of the chicken they decompose. After eight days, I ran the experiment again, this time placing one inch of soil in the bottom of each bucket. By changing this variable, I was able to see if the chicken would decompose quicker by becoming contaminated by bacteria in the soil. I also wanted to see if the soil would help retain moisture in the chicken so it wouldn’t dry out so quickly. What I found was that the chicken decomposed in both areas at almost the same time with an average rate of about 5% per day. In both runs of the experiment, there were more insects present in the swampy area. At one point, there were thirteen times more insects at the swampy area than in the woods. The insects at the swamp also stayed in the trap longer. I noticed that when I put soil in the bottom of the buckets, the insects came almost 24 hours quicker but they didn’t stay as long. Through this experiment I learned a lot about decomposition and different types of decomposing beetles. It was an amazing experience being able to watch beetles that I have never seen before decompose chicken in their natural habitat.


Crunching Munching Caterpillars

Miranda H, Connor B, Ryan A, Emma L, Tyler K, Kiki L

In our experiment, we had one 5th instar monarch caterpillar in a container, with two common milkweed leaves. In our class, we had half of the room put their containers in the light and the other half in the dark. The half of the class that put their caterpillars in the light put them underneath a lamp for constant brightness. The containers that were in the dark were put into cupboards. When we received our leaves, we traced them and counted for how many cm² boxes there were inside of the leaf outline on a sheet of graph paper. The next day we would place the leaf back on the leaf outline on the sheet of graph paper and count how many cm² boxes of leaf were eaten. We wanted to find out how placing caterpillars in light or dark would affect how much milkweed was eaten. The caterpillars in the light ate more than the caterpillars in the dark. The average amount of milkweed eaten overall in the constantly light space was 17.3 cm² and in the constantly dark area was 6.5 cm². The difference between the numbers in the light and dark was 10.8 cm². On day two, the caterpillars ate 0 cm² in the dark, which was thought to be caused by molting, but, on day three in the dark they ate 7.6 cm². On day two for the caterpillars in the light, they consumed 12.5 cm² and on day three, the caterpillars ate 21.4 cm².


Exponential Aphids

Cole B, Elizabeth H, Izzie K, Sydney C, Alex S

For this experiment, we tested the rate of aphid reproduction. We wanted to see if aphids produce faster when you start out with6 or 12 aphids per plant. We split up, in two groups and six put six aphids on a tropical milkweed plant and six put twelve on the plant. We used a toothpick to transport the aphids. Over the course of three days, we counted the number of aphids on each plant.  Our question was, "How does the starting number of aphids (6 or 12) affect the rate of reproduction?" We did this expirament to see if because there were double the starting number of aphids on a milkweed plant, would there be double the aphids in the end of the expirament? Starting with 12 aphids produced more aphids after 3 days but not double what the groups starting with 6 aphids had. In the end, the group starting with six aphids had an average number of 69 aphids per plant. The group starting out with twelve aphids had an average number of 89 aphids per plant in the end. 


Foliage or Floral?

Erin D, Anne V

We started our experiment by labeling four 6-quart plastic cages milkweed leaves and four 6-quart plastic cages milkweed stems and flowers. We placed 5 newly hatched monarch caterpillars in each cage. In the four cages labeled stems and flowers, we placed one stem and 3 composite flowers from a common milkweed plant. In the four cages, labeled leaves, we placed about 12 leaves from a common milkweed plant in each cage. Every other day we measured the monarch caterpillars’ length in millimeters (until they pupated), changed their food, and cleaned their cages. We found that caterpillars on average grew to 33.9 mm with leaves and 32.9 mm eating stems and flowers. In addition to growing more, the caterpillars eating leaves grew faster than the caterpillars eating stems and flowers. Also, many of the caterpillars eating the stems and flowers either died as caterpillars, or died after they hatched from the chrysalis. During this experiment, we learned that monarch caterpillars grow more when they eat the leaves from a common milkweed plant, rather than the stem and the flowers.


Fungus Among Us: Rust

Whitney P, Elise B

In our experiment we wanted to find out how feeding larvae milkweed leaves with rust or without rust affects the growth of a monarch caterpillar. We also wanted to know what the density of rust on common milkweed (Asclepius syriaca) is at Spring Peeper Meadow. For the first question, we set up four plastic cages and put eight 1st instar caterpillars in each cage. We put 2 non-rust leaves in 2 of the cages and 2 rust leaves in 2 of the cages. The 2nd question, we randomly measured 20 different common milkweed plants each on the hillside, middle meadow and pathway to see if they had rust on them. Our data showed that the caterpillars preferred milkweed without rust over milkweed with rust and the month of July had the most rust in each of the 3 fields(hillside, middle meadow and pathway).


Goldie Locks was a Monarch

Katie P

In this experiment I placed twenty monarch eggs in different temperatures with the same cage size, the same food, and the same amount of moisture. I placed the twenty eggs that would grow into larvae in an incubator, on a table in my house near by the incubator, and twenty in a refrigerator at about 56 degrees Fahrenheit. I also put twenty next to the others on the table that I will move into the fridge at night (8:30). I had an electronic thermometer in each area and recorded the temperature at least once a day. I also measured the growth of the caterpillars every other day after they hatched. I was curious to see how temperature affects monarch caterpillars. I wondered if temperature has to do with why monarchs arrive and leave when they do from the different parts of the world that they migrate to. I also did this because I don’t like it when my room gets too hot or cold. I wanted to know how different temperatures affected the growth of monarchs. The larvae in the incubator hatched first. They grew very fast, but after about four days all but one larva died. The one that survived lived for about four more days. The eggs in the fridge never hatched. The caterpillars that rotated in between the room temp and the fridge all lived for about a week then died. The caterpillars on the table at room temperature survived the best. Thirteen of the twenty made it to adulthood.


Got Milkweed?

Danielle G

For my experiment I fed 30 monarch caterpillars 3 different types of milkweed and measured them every other day. I got 6 plastic 6qt cages with screened covers and placed a moist paper towel in the bottom of each of them. I received 30 monarch eggs and when they hatched I placed them in their assigned cage. There were 5 caterpillars per cage. I picked fresh milkweed every 5 days and stored it in the refrigerator. I changed their milkweed daily. I cleaned their cages daily by putting in fresh milkweed and a new moist paper towel. I measured each caterpillar with a ruler (mm) every other day. When the adults emerged I measured them and lat them go. I wanted to find out how feeding different species of milkweed to monarch caterpillars, (common milkweed-Asclepias syraiaca, butterfly weed- Asclepias tuberosa and whorled milkweed- Asclepias verticillata), affect their growth and development. On the last day all the caterpillars were measured before going into chrysalis. There were 6 different cages. The average length of caterpillars in the 2 cages of common milkweed was 42mm (cage 1) and 41mm (cage 2). The whorled milkweed was 34mm (cage 1) and 29mm (cage 2). The butterfly weed was 5mm (cage 1) and 42mm (cage 2). The adult monarch averages for common milkweed were 46mm (cage 1) and 46mm (cage 2). For whorled milkweed they were 41mm (cage 1) 38mm (cage 2). Only 1 adult emerged after eating butterfly weed.


Heat Is Neat

Sarah H

To set up this experiment, I placed 8-9 first instar monarch caterpillars in each of the 4 cages. I had 4 treatments: cool/dark, cool/light, warm/dark, and warm/light. I wanted to find out how the heat and amount of light affected the speed of growth, length and amount of black coloration of a monarch caterpillar.

The caterpillars in the cool/dark grew to be an average of 2.5 centimeters long and had 58% black coloration. In the cool/light, they grew to be 3.1 centimeters long and had 68% black coloration. In the warm/dark, they grew to be 4.8 centimeters long and had 66% black coloration. In the warm/light, they grew to be 4.9 centimeters long and had 64% black coloration.

These results show that the warmer the temperatures, the longer and faster monarch caterpillars will grow. Also, the cool/light condition had the most black coloration to absorb the heat energy from the light. The caterpillars in the cool/dark condition had the least amount of black coloration because there is no heat energy to pick up. In the warm/dark and warm/light cond


Is Fresh Always Best?

Heidi S

In my experiment, I placed ten monarch caterpillars in a cage with fresh milkweed leaves and ten caterpillars in a cage eating milkweed leaves that had been refrigerated for 14 days. I collected and refrigerated 300 leaves for this treatment. Every other day I would measure the length of all the caterpillars in each cage.

The purpose of this experiment was to figure out whether it really matters if the caterpillars eat fresh or refrigerated milkweed. If there isn't a difference between the two, then it will be a lot easier to collect milkweed once and feed them this rather than picking it fresh every day.

The caterpillars eating the fresh milkweed grew the longest in length, the last average was 37 mm and was in the larva stage for 21 days. The caterpillars eating refrigerated milkweed grew an average of 35 mm and were only in the larva stage up to 17 days before pupating. The caterpillars eating fresh milkweed grew longer and ate longer that the ones eating refrigerated leaves.


Marvelous Monarchs

Sarah M

The first step to setting up our experiment was to raise 50 monarch eggs to their adult stage. After they became butterflies we put them in a netted butterfly cage so they would mate. Once a female butterfly became pregnant we would put her in a separate cage with three different conditions of milkweed (fresh, diseased and sprayed with weed killer). After forty-eight hours we counted how many eggs were laid on each of the three plants. We repeated this two more times. We then raised the eggs laid on the certain condition of milkweed they were laid on. We put sixteen (12 caterpillars raised on fresh milkweed and 4 caterpillars raised on diseased milkweed) caterpillars into their own cages and measured them every three days. We wanted to find out how the different conditions of milkweed plants (fresh, diseased and freshly sprayed with weed killer) affect where female monarch butterflies lay their eggs. We also wanted to find out how the different conditions of milkweed (fresh, diseased and freshly sprayed with weed killer) affect the growth and development of monarch caterpillars.

We found that monarch butterflies can tell the difference between different conditions of milkweed. All three pregnant female butterflies laid a total of 28 eggs on fresh milkweed, 19 eggs on diseased milkweed and 0 on the milkweed sprayed with weed killer. Out of the 47 eggs laid, only 18 hatched! 16 eggs that were laid on the fresh milkweed hatched and 4 eggs on the diseased hatched. We decided to take 12 of the eggs of the fresh and all of the ones on the diseased and measure them and keep track of their growth. The caterpillars eating fresh milkweed grew an average of 1.5 mm every 3 days. The caterpillars eating diseased milkweed grew an average of 2.5 mm every 3 days.


Monarch Growth Pattern:Comparing isolated milkweed vs. assorted plants

Hannah S

For my experiment I set up two large wooden box cages, one with assorted prairie including milkweed plants, and another with one milkweed plant alone.  I raised 10 monarch larvae in each cage and placed the cages 5ft apart.  I changed the milkweed and extra plants every two days.  Every day I measured each caterpillar in millimeters for two weeks until they pupated.  My question is "Do monarch larvae grow faster and longer when the milkweed is surrounded by other plants, or when it is by itself?  I found that larvae grow faster when they are in a crowded environment.  The ending average growth of a 5th instar in the assorted plant environment was 40.7 mm. and the milkweed alone was 40.4 mm.  It took 15 days for the assorted plant larvae and the larvae with only milkweed to pupate.


Monarch Marathon

Katie G, Quinn K

Last summer, while monitoring monarchs in the field, we noticed that some milkweed grows in clumps while others grow singly. If monarch larvae are looking for more food, how far will they go to find it? Our question was: how does placing 3rs, 4th, and 5th instar monarch caterpillars in the center of a 5, 10, 15,20, and 25 inch ring affect the time and direction they travel to find milkweed. We filled a kiddie pool with soil and set up five rings of water bottles, each five inches apart. There were four water bottles per ring, each facing a separate direction, and a stem of common milkweed in each. We raised ten monarch caterpillars from eggs until they became third instars. We placed each third instar in the middle of each ring and recorded the time it took to reach the milkweed and the direction it traveled. We did this for all the caterpillars in all the rings. We repeated this process twice, with fourth and fifth instars. In our results, fifth instar caterpillars reached the milkweed every time, at a constant pace. Their average time to the twenty-five inch ring was 1:44. The fourth instars also reached the milkweed each time, but it took them longer to find it the farther away milkweed was. Their average time in the twenty-five inch ring was 8:20. Finally, the third instar caterpillars had the hardest time finding the milkweed. Their average time in the twenty-five inch ring was 13:19. We conclude that there is a definite difference in the monarchs instars ability to find and travel to milkweed. There was also a difference in the direction they travel from a more random direction of the third instars to a westerly direction for the fifth instars.


Roach Rampage

Michael M, Katharine M, Parker B, Sophia A, Daniel M, Mollie D, Claire O

In our experiment, we put 13 cockroaches in plastic shoebox containers and put one potato round in with them. We put half in the light and half in the dark over the course of six days we measured how much potato an adult cockroach will eat. We wanted to find out how light and dark conditions affect the number of centimeters squared a cockroach will eat. We found that the cockroaches in the dark ate less than the one's in the light. The final average of potato eaten by one cockroach in one day was 0.5 centimeters squared. The average amount of potato eaten in the dark by one cockroach in one day was 0.2 centimeters squared. We thought they would eat more in the dark because they are nocturnal. The cockroaches ate less in the dark. We checked this experiment on days two, three, and day six. Each cockroach didn't eat a very large amount and some didn't eat any at all for multiple days. Sometimes the cockroach grazed on top of the it so that could have been an uncertainty of this experiment and measuring it. Another one was that the potato round would shrivel up so that could affect our measuring as well.


See You Later Pollinator

Hannah T

For my experiment, I wanted to find out how the number of flower clusters on a single milkweed plant, monitored over 4 weeks in August, affects the number of pods per flower cluster and the percent of flowers forming pods. I randomly picked 5 plants with one cluster, 5 with 2 clusters and 5 for plants with 3-7 clusters each. I counted the number of flowers in each cluster for every plant, and measured height, number of pods, herbivory, and condition for 4 consecutive weeks in August. My data concluded that as you increase the number of clusters on a milkweed plant, more pods per cluster will be formed.


Survival of the Flowerest?

Emily R

In the month of July, I tagged twelve common milkweed plants, six flowering and six non-flowering. Using latex from the leaves, I placed four monarch butterfly eggs on the top side of the leaves on each plant. For the next nine days, I observed egg survival and identified what insects were on each plant. A few days after this experiment was complete, I placed two monarch eggs on the bottom side of the same twelve milkweed plants. Every other day for the next five days, I observed the egg survival and insects as I had before. The purpose of this experiment was to find out how placing eggs on flowering common milkweed plants verses non-flowering common milkweed plants affects the survival rate of a monarch butterfly egg. The egg's survival rate on the top of the leaf was similar on both the flowering and non-flowering milkweed plants. I also found that the monarch eggs on the bottom side had a higher survival rate on non-flowering milkweed plants. A few days into the experiment, I found that approximately 91% of the monarch eggs survived on the top of the non-flowering milkweed plants and approximately 95% of the monarch eggs survived on the top of the flowering milkweed plants. Major groups of insects I found on the plants include ants, beatles, milkweed bugs, and spiders.


Wonder Weevils

Brityn R, Catie C

In our project, we monitored milkweed weevils in Spring Peeper meadow. We participated in the Monarch Monitoring Program at the University of Minnesota and thought it would be interesting to do a project on weevils. We wanted to find which month, July, August or September, is the weevil population most dense. We also wanted to explore the life cycle of a weevil by dissecting weevil troughs from different areas of the field, hillside, middle meadow and pathway. In the first week of each month, we visited Spring Peeper Meadow and recorded data about the population of weevils in each month. In the month of August, we recorded data about the weevil population in each area of the meadow and took ten trough samples home to dissect. While dissecting, we counted the number of each weevil stage found in the milkweed.


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