• Monarchs in the Classroom

    Each fall we raise Monarch Butterflies so that our students have a hands-on opportunity to explore science concepts such as classification, life cycles, ecosystems, genetics, and adaptations.  Students participate in the rearing process and investigate each stage of the Monarch's life cycle.  At the completion of the project, students help release our adult Monarchs into the wild, and wish them well on their 2,500 mile migration to Mexico.

     Our first larva of the year has successfully completed its life cycle. 
    It's a girl!
     How do we know?
    Male Monarchs have a black spot on each of its hind wings.  Females do not.  Females have thicker vein patterns.
    male female

    Monarch larvae can ONLY eat milkweed.  This is why the female lays her eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves.  
     Milkweed Investigation
    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.
    milkweed 2
    milkweed 1
     Symbolic Migration
     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.
    Symbolic Migration  Symbolic Migration
    Monarch Migration  

    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.
    pupate1 pupate2 pupate3
     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.

     Butterfly & Insect Games