University of Minnesota

Ecology Fair University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Abstracts from St. Hubert School 2012

St. Hubert School
8201 Main St
Chanhassen, MN 55317

Year: 2012
Teacher(s): Cindy Petersen

Bugs in a Bottle

Marissa E

I started my experiment by making four insect traps. I put different types of bait in each trap (rotten fruit, fresh fruit, rotten meat, and fresh meat). I placed the traps on the edge of a forest and left them out during the day and during the night. I counted and identified the insects at 8:00 AM and at 8:00 PM every day for one week. I conducted this experiment because I enjoy studying insects and the types of food they consume. I discovered that rotten fruit attracts the most insects. I also discovered that most insects prefer feeding during the night time. The traps captured many different types of insects including bees, moths, beetles, mosquitos, and flies.

Clean Freak

Hayley C

To start my experiment, I set up 60 one-quart deli containers with holes punched in the lid. I placed one caterpillar or egg in each container along with milkweed. Throughout the experiment, 20 of the containers were cleaned with bleach, 20 of the containers were cleaned with water, and 20 of them were not cleaned. I also swabbed for bacteria throughout the caterpillars life cycle. I wanted to find out how cleaning the cages with bleach, water, and not cleaning affected the growth rate, survival rate and bacteria levels. The caterpillars grew at a similar rate and the the survival rate was almost the same in all 3 treatments. There proved to be more bacteria in the containers not cleaned with bleach.

Cockroach Weight Lifting

Emma J, Alexis P, Emma T, Mia P

To start our experiment, we took 12 cockroaches ranging from 3.6 grams to 7.7 grams and put pennies on their backs with strapping tape. We wanted to test the amount of weight cockroaches could carry on their backs. We put the cockroach in a box and put pennies on their backs one by one and recorded how far they went. Based on our data, the average weight that a cockroach can carry is 36.7 grams of pennies. We discovered that the weight of a cockroach does not effect how much weight it can carry.

Coral Corpse

Anna A

When I set up my experiment I had nine cups with distilled water and nine cups with salt water. Then I added vinegar to all of them. My question was; How does the amount of vinegar (5ml and 10ml) added to distilled water or salt water affect to change in mass of the coral pieces? Each week I prepared the different water solutions and placed to coral pieces in. At the end of the week, I let the coral pieces dry and then I weighed them. So far, it looks as if the coral in the solutions with vinegar are losing the most mass. Although, I still have many more trials to conduct before I know which water solution effects to coral weight the most.

Devastating Drought and Damp; Catastrophic Caterpillars

Matt N

To begin my experiment, I put 80 to 84 monarch eggs in their own separate lidded containers. There were 4 groups of 20-21 eggs. My experiment was to test to see how monarchs would react to drought conditions. Each group was fed milkweed leaves that were under a heating lamp for different times: 0 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes and 120 minutes. I found out that the monarchs that had the best survival rate (38%) were those that ate the the 0 minute leaves. The monarchs that ate the 30 and 120 minute treatment leaves had a survival rate of 15%. The group with the worst survival rate (14.29) ate the 60 minute treatment leaves.

Digging Deeper

Meredith S

For my experiment I asked how does the amount of moisture in the soil in a wooded or field site affect the amount of earthworms living there and the levels they inhabit? I set up four different 48 sq ft. areas, two with a frame and tarp suspended over it and two left open. One open and one covered were in a woods and the same in a field. I watered the open one 2 gal. every day for a week. Then I tested each of the four areas and found the average worms per 2.25 feet living there. Overall, I found that in all areas there were the most anecic worms. The least amount of total worms were found in the field sites.


Abigail B, Alysse G, Christina T, Tiana C, Brooke B

To set up our experiment, we placed two female monarch butterflies into two butterfly tents. Then, we placed five tropical milkweed plants and one swamp milkweed plant in each tent. We sprayed every other milkweed plant with a mixture of water and mint extract. Our experiment lasted three days. We wanted to find how unscented and mint scented milkweed affects the number of eggs a monarch lays. We discovered that monarchs prefer to lay eggs on unscented milkweed instead of scented milkweed. The monarchs laid an average of 7.3 eggs on the scented milkweed and an average of 16 eggs on the unscented milkweed.

Extreme Heat

Ryan P

To conduct my experiment, I divided 45 monarch eggs into three containers for two trials. The containers were set at 24 hours of heat, 12 hours of heat, and room temperature. I wanted to find out how heat affected the growth and development of monarchs. I measured the larvae each day until they were adults. The monarchs in heat 24 hours/day grew the fastest but had the highest death rate. The monarchs in heat 12 hours/day grew the second fastest and had the second highest death rate. The monarchs in room temperature grew the slowest with no deaths. My data suggests that the room temperature group grew and developed the best. My data shows how heat adversely affects the growth and development of monarchs.

Filthy Foul Caterpillars

Nicole R

The question that I asked for my experiment was, “How does the level of humidity and type of milkweed consumed (dry or humid and swamp or common milkweed) affect the amount of bacteria on a monarch caterpillar’s skin (in cm2)? To begin, I raised 32 caterpillars in either dry or humid conditions and fed them either swamp or common milkweed. Then, when the caterpillars reached either the fourth or fifth instar, I swabbed their backs for bacteria and let it grow for 48 hours in a petri dish. Next, I let the bacteria grow another 24 hours and re-measured it. I concluded that the caterpillars eating swamp milkweed in humid conditions had the highest bacteria level, averaging at 5 45/64 cm2.

How Clean is Your Milkweed?

Emma M

How clean is YOUR milkweed? For my experiment, I tested if washing the milkweed makes a difference in the days of development and survival rate of the monarch larvae. I also tested this in different months to see if that impacts anything. I raised 20 monarchs in July, August, and September. In each set of twenty, I washed 10 leaves and left 10 unwashed. For the most part, I found that there is not a huge difference if you wash the milkweed or raise the caterpillars in different months.

It's beginning to smell a lot like volatiles

Lauren T

In order to conduct my experiment, I picked out and labeled thirty average, healthy milkweed plants. They were all in the same location. After that, I raised fifty monarch eggs until they were 2nd instars. Then, I took twelve of them out to the milkweed location. I placed two 2nd instars on each example plant (two example plants in all), two on Hole1 and Hole2, two on Frass1 and Fras2, and two on None1 and None2. The 1 and 2 stand for the examples for that day. There were two examples per day. I repeated this for four more days. After each day, I recorded my data with a scale. My data suggests that predators were most attracted to monarchs on plants with frass.

Lights and Larvae

Catherine T, Sophia T, Logan A

In order to conduct our experiment, everyone in our class placed a 2nd or 3rd instar larva in a deli container with milkweed. Then, half of the class placed their larvae in a dark cabinet in a classroom. The other half of the class placed their larva under a lamp. Our class did six trials for both conditions. After two days, our class calculated the overall average amount that one caterpillar eats in one day in the light and in the dark. We wanted to find out how the light and dark environment conditions for monarch larvae affect the amount eaten by the larvae. Our data show that the monarch larva in the light condition ate more milkweed in the dark condition.

Mighty Munchers

Julia B

To set up my experiment I put first instar monarch caterpillars in containers with milkweed flowers, milkweed leaves and milkweed flowers and leaves. I wanted to see if they would eat flowers and live. The idea of my experiment is that if the leaves in the milkweed plant were inedible that the caterpillar can survive off the flowers. My results were that they can live of the flowers. The caterpillars that were eating flowers were about a week behind in development compared to the ones eating leaves. Also I noticed that the adults were a little smaller in size than the others.

Milkweed Munchers

Morgan A

I wanted to find out how milkweed’s condition affects monarch caterpillars’ growth and the milkweed’s weight/water loss after being treated and after being exposed to room temperature for 24 hours. I fed monarchs fresh, frozen, up to one week refrigerated, and up to two weeks refrigerated milkweed and weighed each monarch. I also weighed fresh, frozen, one week refrigerated, and two weeks refrigerated milkweed before and after putting them in their condition and exposing them to room temperature for 24 hours. I found that the 1 week milkweed resulted in the highest average growth and survival rate for the monarchs and the fresh milkweed had the least amount of weight/water loss after being treated and after being exposed to room temperature for 24 hours.

Monarch diet

Brian A

To set up my experiment I placed 85 monarch caterpillars in 17 containers so there were 5 in each, 40 caterpillars were eating milkweed without pods, 45 of the caterpillars were eating milkweed with pods. I wanted to find out wether pods would affect their growth and survival. The results showed that caterpillars eating milkweed without pods had a higher survival rate and better growth.

Monarch Massacre

Tony B

To set up my experiment I made twenty cages that would have metal screen on the top for when I bring the caterpillars to the field. I also made sixty cages that would have a normal plastic top with holes in it for when the caterpillars are at my house.I would bring them to the field and document their status every day until they changed into the next instar. I would repeat the process until I was done with the 5th instar group.I would mark down on an excel document the cause and date of the caterpillars mortality rate. I conclude that caterpillars exposed in the wild in the first instar had the highest mortality rate and the highest cause of mortality was a stinkbug.

Monarchs Sensing Milkweed

Alexa R

Do you know which part of the milkweed monarch larvae use to sense milkweed? I based my experiment on this question to figure out how monarch larvae sense milkweed. I used twenty third and fifth instars in my experiment. I placed each caterpillar in the center of the poster board and waited for them to crawl to one of the sides. One of the sides had a milkweed leaf. Another side had a milkweed leaf with holes. The third side had latex and the final side had the scent of milkweed. Most of the third instars crawled to the milkweed leaf. The fifth instars crawled to the milkweed leaf and milkweed leaf with holes in it about the same amount of times.

Nutritious Nectar

Lauren M

My Question was: How does the concentration of sugar or honey in nectar affect the width of a Monarch adult abdomen and their weight? I took 56 adult Monarch butterflies and put them in eight different treatments. I tested honey and sugar nectar with 5%, 10%, 20%, and 40% concentrations of each. I measured the weight and abdomen width of the butterflies for five weeks. After looking at my data, I have found it to suggest that feeding Monarchs sugar nectar will help with longevity, while honey tends to help the butterflies gain more weight.

Pollination Pursuit

Emma T

Do you know what attracts pollinators more? Color or scent? This is the focus of my experiment. I started by taking twenty-five 9 oz clear, plastic cups and attaching them to wire stilts. I placed them in clusters of five and in five different locations around my yard. There were two experiments, one for color (red, orange, yellow, purple, and white) and one for scent (cherry blossom, lavender, orange, mint and vanilla.) I waited five days, collecting the arthropods that had been trapped each night. In addition to color and scent attract similar numbers of pollinators. However, within each of these categories, there are favorites as to which cup the insects flew into.

Problematic Puparum

Michael A

I placed thirteen monarch chrysalides, in Spring Peeper Meadow during August and September 2012, on milkweed with frass and twelve 5th instars in deli containers out in the field. I engineered a device to clip chrysalides to the plants. I collected the chrysalides after seven days, and placed each in an individual deli container, and I monitored the 5th instars until they became “J’s” then took them out of the field. I measured the time for wasps to emerge and the number of wasps emerging. I wanted to know how the stage of monarch metamorphosis with frass affects the rate of wasp parasitism by Pteromalus puparum. I’m waiting for the wasps to emerge, but I still have six that I presume to be infected.

Seasons in the Sun

Grace H

Everyone knows that monarch caterpillars live in Minnesota during the summer months, and we assume it is due to the warm climate. But, what if they stayed in Minnesota during the summer because of the hours of light in a Minnesota summer day? To answer this question, I measured how the number of hours in a day in which monarch instars were exposed to light relative to the seasonal light conditions (12/24, 16/24, and 8/24 hrs) affects the amount of milkweed eaten by the instars, their length, and their survival rate. My data suggested that monarch instars raised in the light conditions of 12hrs light/ 12 hrs dark ate the most, grew to be the longest length, and had the highest survival rate.

Super Senses

Kelly K

My question is “What senses (Sight, smell, sight and smell, or no sense) do monarchs, 3rd, 4th, and 5th instar caterpillars use most often to detect milkweed, their host plant? This question arose while I was studying monarchs over the summer. To conduct an experiment with this question, I placed three caterpillars at a time into my experiment that had different set-ups to show which sense they used to find the milkweed. Once having completed this experiment, my data suggests that 3rd instar caterpillars use sight the most often when locating their milkweed. 4th instars used the senses of sight and smell combined most often, and 5th instars used no sense most often when finding their milkweed.

Survivor: Monarch Edition

Tim Z

In my experiment I wanted to find out how the presence of ants and aphids affects the survival rate of monarch caterpillars. In the wild I placed monarch caterpillars on five plants with ants and aphids and on five plants without ants and aphids with 4 monarchs on each plant. I recorded how many monarch caterpillars had survived, and what instar they were. Next, in a controlled environment I placed three first instar monarch caterpillars on a stalk of milkweed with ants and aphids and recorded how many survived, and then repeated this with second and then third instars. I found that the presence of ants and aphids significantly affects the survival rate of monarch caterpillars. I observed that first instars are affected the most.

To Be OE or Not To Be

Katie M

Have you ever had a caterpillar make a black chrysalis or even had black goo surround it after its death? Chances are that the culprit was the microscopic parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, or OE. I wondered if washing OE contaminated milkweed would prevent the monarchs from catching the parasite. For my experiment I placed 20 caterpillars in two treatments, washed OE contaminated milkweed and unwashed OE contaminated milkweed. I raised caterpillars in these treatments and when they emerged from their chrysalis, I tested the butterflies for OE. All of the butterflies were tested positive for OE, but on average the butterflies in the washed treatment had a higher survival rate and were physically healthier in appearance.

Wacky Walkers

Quinn O

Question: How does the monarch caterpillars’ distance from the milkweed affect how far the caterpillar will travel and it what direction it will go? I took away the caterpillars' food for 1 hour. I set up my experiment by placing one caterpillar in the middle of two sheets of paper, with a stock of milkweed 2 feet away. I traced its path with a pen. I repeated this process five times with all instars and with milkweed at 4 and 6 feet away. I concluded that regardless of the milkweed’s distance,the little instars (one and two) will almost always travel shorter distances than the larger instars (3-5), and that most of the caterpillars tend to stay on the milkweed side vs. the non-milkweed side.

Weathered and Wilted or Crisp and Crunchy?

Alexandra B

My question looked to determine whether monarchs preferred to lay eggs on fresh or senescing milkweed. To begin my experiment I put two stalks of fresh milkweed in one butterfly tent and two stalks of senescing milkweed in another butterfly tent. I randomly selected two pregnant monarchs in the tent with fresh milkweed and one pregnant monarch in the tent with senescing milkweed. I set the tents out and counted hourly the number of eggs laid over a two day period. I found that the monarchs laid 335 eggs on the fresh milkweed and 75 eggs on the senescing milkweed during the two days. The results suggest pregnant monarchs prefer fresh milkweed to lay their eggs rather than senescing milkweed.

You Are What You Eat

Elizabeth M

Monarch caterpillars usually eat their eggshells and their molts as they shed. I wanted to find out what percentage of monarch caterpillars eat these. If they do not are they less healthy? I set up 34 individual monarch caterpillars and observed whether they ate their eggshell and each of their molts. I monitored growth by measuring their length. 97% of the caterpillars ate their egg shell, 100% ate their 1st molt, 94% ate their 2nd/3rd molt, and 97% ate their 4th molt. Those that did not eat their molts were usually smaller. The survival rate of those that ate all their molts was 72.4% but the rate for those that didn't eat one of their molts was 40%.

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