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Ecology Fair University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Abstracts from Willow Creek Middle School 2004

Willow Creek Middle School
2425 11th Ave SE
Rochester, MN 55604

Year: 2004
Teacher(s): De Cansler

Artificial Nectar Preferences of Monarch Butterflies

Lauren J, Kelsey A

In this lab, we experimented on eight monarch butterflies. We charted how much nectar they drank each day by writing down the weights before they drank, and the weights after they drank. We did this to see if the butterflies had a nectar preference. We used 4 different drinks: Sprite, clear Strawberry Gatorade, Sierra Mist, and sugar water. Our results are inconclusive because we have not fully completed this experiment, but we do know that most of the butterflies didn’t have a nectar preference. Some uncertainties of this experiment were that we might have had different butterflies being used or not being used because some students needed to borrow them for their own mini-experiments. Also, we didn’t quite finish the experiment. Two new things that this group learned are how to feed and monitor butterflies and that our monarch butterflies didn’t have a nectar preference.


Can Woolly Bears Learn?

Megan O

In this lab, we were trying to find out if woolly bears could travel through a maze to find food.  We found that 44% of the times that the larvae tried running it, they completed the maze in a time span of 15 minutes or less.  For the first trial 38% of the larvae completed it.  For the second trial, 57% of the larvae made it.  Our conclusion is that if woolly bears did the maze enough times they could learn.  Some uncertainties of our project were brought about by the fact that we only tested them twice, and because we only had a small number of larvae to test. One thing I learned from doing this experiment is that if you give the larvae plenty of trials to go through the maze, there is a better chance that they will learn. The other thing I learned is that if you give them days and days to complete the maze, they will be able to. If you give them only 15 minutes, then you know if they can actually learn.


Does the Addition of Dye to Milkweed Leaves Affect the Color of Monarch Larvae?

Tim C, Eric A, Leah B, James K

For our class monarch experiment we painted milkweed leaves with blue and red food coloring. We also left one container of untreated control milkweed leaves. Five larvae were in each container. The purpose of this experiment was to find out what would happen if the larvae ate the colored leaves. We wanted to figure out if the larvae would change color. The results were that it affected the red larvae frass color, and also the blue larvae frass. It didn’t seem to affect them eating the leaves. During the weekends we found different people to take them home and feed them. Some of them took home the red containers and fed them blue leaves. That means that the person that was feeding them blue was supposed to feed them red leaves. During one weekend a person forgot to take home the red painted container too.  We learned that the red dye slowed down the growth process of the larvae. We also learned that the larvae that ate the red leaves had red frass.


How Much Energy is Used from Food?

Tess J

My question was, does the weight of the eaten leaf equal the weight of the frass and larvae weight gain? I put each larva in its own container. But before I did so I weighed each leaf and recorded all of the information. Once twelve hours had gone by I weighed each of the larvae, the leaves, frass, and recorded the information. I put together a table and found out my question was possible.

I did this because I wanted to know how much of the food they ate went into energy or if the energy used did not affect the new food eaten.

My results were answered in an equation.  The initial weight of the leaf minus the final weight of the leaf equals the weight of frass plus the final weight of the caterpillar minus the initial weight of the caterpillar. I plugged each of the numbers in for all of them and found out that over half of the food they ate was used as energy. It varied for each caterpillar.

Some errors I faced were two of my larvae died during the experiment. That messed it up because the fewer I have the less evidence I have to support my results. I should have had at least ten caterpillars, but one of them died before I started the experiment and two died during the experiment.

I learned that so much of the food they eat is used for energy. So when you eat and produce “frass”, over half the food left in you is used as energy, the rest is fat. I also learned a new equation that was really interesting. I was shocked when I found out that all you need to do to find out how much energy your body gets out of the food you eat.


Monarch Larval Preference: Plain or Gatorade Treated?

Wyatt J, Jenny F

In this experiment, we weighed milkweed leaves to see if our monarch caterpillars prefer Gatorade-treated milkweed leaves to normal milkweed leaves.  Our results showed that for one week, our nine caterpillars ate .856 milligrams of Gatorade-treated milkweed and ate 1.1 milligrams of non-treated milkweed leaves.  Some errors that I could have made were that I might have weighed the caterpillars wrong. It is possible that the caterpillars were not hungry.  In this experiment, I learned how you have to forget about minor setbacks, and I learned more about monarch caterpillars’ food preference.


Monarch Larval Pupation Surface Preference

Jordan K

Our group chose to see what surface monarch larvae prefer to pupate on: sandpaper, tinfoil or plastic. We were curious if they liked a slippery surface or a gritty surface for gripping reasons. We thought that they would like the sandpaper because it was a very easy surface to grip onto. We raised the five larvae we had and eventually got a total of thirteen larvae. When they got big enough we put them into the surfaced container. Three of them pupated on the same day. One died before it pupated. Another two died while in the chrysalis and another did make it. So we had a total of four larvae that were alive in the end. Six larvae were recorded before two of them died. Four of them chose plastic, one of them chose tinfoil, and the last one chose sandpaper to pupate. So sixty-six percent chose the surface of plastic. Sandpaper and tinfoil had a total of seventeen percent each. One of the things that could make this project misleading is the fact that we had only six larvae recorded, and one of them pupated on the side of the container instead of on the lid like the others in this project. I think we all learned that your prediction is not usually anywhere close to what actually happens. We also learned that monarchs prefer plastic to most surfaces. Fortunately, all four of the larvae that made it to become a butterfly were healthy.


Will Coloration of the Egg Affect the Color that the Larvae Hatch?

Julia W, Anna J

In this experiment, we wanted to see if larvae would hatch the same color as the egg if we dyed the egg. To conduct this experiment, we took 20 eggs and dyed five red, five blue, five purple, and we left five plain. We did two applications of the dye. To keep the eggs from hatching while we applied dye, we kept the eggs in the classroom fridge. We found that our hypothesis was correct. The larvae that hatched did have a slight coloration to them. The color went away after a few days and the larvae did not eat their eggshells. Only six hatched. Our results might not be totally accurate since the dye was not applied in equal amounts between the eggs and not enough eggs hatched from each color to get the best results. Two new things our group learned were that dye on eggs can effect the pigmentation of the larvae, and also that refrigeration slows down the hatching process but leaving them in the fridge too long could turn the eggs moldy.


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