Our 2nd and 3rd graders investigated milkweed, the Monarch's host plant. We learned all about the opposite leaves on the stem, the milky sap inside of the plant, the prickly seed pod which aphids and beetles call home, and the fuzzy seeds that fly away in the wind.
As part of their learning experiences, students explore the migration of the Monarch Butterfly, and participate in Journey North's symbolic migration experience. In late fall, AG students send paper butterflies to students living near the Monarch butterfly's winter sanctuary in Mexico. Once spring returns, AG students receive a paper butterfly from a partner school located along the Monarch's northern migration route.
Updates from the Monarch Lab
Update: October 4
Our last larva is getting ready to pupate! When they pupate, they climb away from the milkweed and spin a silk button. Then they hang upside down like the letter J. When they're ready, they'll shed their skin for the last time and enclose themselves in a green chrysalis. This is called the pupa stage. They will spend the next 10-14 days going through a major transformation. This is called metamorphosis.
A Monarch larva hanging upside down in a J.
Monarch larvae take only a few minutes to turn into a chrysalis.
A few of our students were lucky enough to see it happen!
A Monarch chrysalis.
Update: October 14
Our monarchs are slowly eclosing (opening). When monarchs eclose, they hang from their empty chrysalis and pump fluid into their wings. Their wings are very wet at first, and they can't fly. After their wings dry, they'll be quite hungry. We need to release them within a day or two so that they can go find food. Adult monarchs drink nectar from flowers. They no longer have mouth parts. Instead, they have a proboscis. It works like a straw!
It takes about 3 minutes for a Monarch butterfly to fully eclose (open), and another 10-12 hours for its wings to dry. Can you find the proboscis? It's that tiny spiral straw part located on the Monarch's head.
Here is a picture of one of our male monarchs on a Red Autumn sedum plant in our school garden. Our Monarchs are heading to Mexico, for the longest migration of any insect (2,500 miles). They will spend the winter in the Oyamel Fir Forests, and begin their migration back north in Spring.