Monarchs in Space Project


The Last Chrysalis to Change 12-15-09

Today when Mrs. Rich’s class came back from bowling, they discovered that the last chrysalis was just cracking open. It was in a container in the hall, and it drew quite a crowd! The photos are a bit blurry, but they’re worth a look anyway-check it out!

The Butterflies Hatching

The first chrysalis that hatched took us by surprise.  The lighting wasn't in place and the camera wasn't on its tripod.  So, the focus and lighting leaves something to be desired. Considering Mr. Rich was using a penlight flashlight to  provide light I suppose it is actually pretty good. The entire process lasted about 30 minutes.  I edited it down.   Pay attention at about one minute in to the video. You'll see the butterfly gracefully swing its lower body (the abdomen) out of the chrysalis.  The movie of butterfly number two is crystal clear.  However, he did not make it out of the chrysalis in a very graceful manner and injured himself in the process.  Notice the difference between the two.

Day Twenty Seven 12-12-09  Update

We have two butterflies!  I managed to videotape the first one as it emerged and I'll upload that video tomorrow.  In the meantime, here are some pictures.  The second one to emerge had some difficulty.  It didn't emerge as gracefully and its wings do not look as healthy as they should be.  The first one that pupated was the first to  hatch, after 15 days in the chrysalis.  The second one to pupate hatched less than an hour later.  It pupated 13 days ago.

Day Twenty Seven 12-12-09

Not much change in the chrysalis whose changes we are documenting daily, but check out what has happened in our other cage.  These three were the first to pupate.  They range from 13-15 days old.  Interestingly, the one on the left, which appears to be the furthest along, is not the oldest.  The chrysalis in the close up pupated on the 29th of November.

Day Twenty Six  12-11-09

We are getting a little worried about our chrysalises.  They seem to be so far behind the ones raised on the space station and in the control group in Colorado.  We  have observed that the first two that pupated are finally darkening up.

Day Twenty Five  12-10-09

It's a snow day for us.  No observations today.

Day Twenty Four  12-09-09

There wasn't much of a change today, but we think the top of it is turning darker. When we adjusted the lighting, we saw things in our chrysalis that we hadn't noticed before.  We are wondering if the two gold dots we see are going to become eyes.  They look like they are part of a head.  The head would be upside down, but Tanner remembered that the caterpillars were upside down when they pupated, so we think maybe the butterfly will emerge upside down too.  We can't wait to watch the butterfly emerge to check our prediction.
We looked at another chrysalis that was only one day older and were thrilled with what we saw.  We are sure we see the outline of the veins of a butterfly's wings, even though it is still bright green. We have included a photo of that too, but it is more impressive in person.

Day Twenty Two  12-07-09

Well, fortunately we did not return after that long weekend to find an empty chrysalis or a butterfly winging around the school.  In fact, some of the kids were surprised that there wasn't more of a change in the chrysalis we are observing.  Check out the photo and their record of today's observations.  Then read on for a fascinating fact about chrysalises presented by Adam.
Inside the chrysalis it is a soupy mush.  The mush will turn into the butterfly.  Amazing!

Day Twenty One  12-06-09

Still no updates for you, but according to the date, we could return to find that a butterfly has emerged.  Of course, that would be funny since when we left on Thursday, the cages were uncovered to offer us a clearer view.  Wouldn't it be a surprise to see a monarch flying around the school in December.  Let's hope the oldest chrysalis has decided to wait for us.  The monarchs have emerged on the Space Station and in the control group in Colorado.  Check out the photos and videos at  It is interesting to compare the cages at both sites.
Just for fun, we put the skin that fell from the final molt under our digital microscope.  Check out what we saw.  Remember, you can click on any photo to enlarge it.

Day Twenty   12-05-09

With an unexpected snow day on Friday and now a weekend, we have no changes to record.  Instead, read on for a summary of the life of a monarch caterpillar written by Marcus.

A Caterpillar's Life
A caterpillar eats milkweed, and the milkweed is poisonous to other things.  The caterpillar sticks to the milkweed, and if a strong wind pushes the caterpillar off the milkweed, the caterpillar has strong string to climb back up the milkweed.  The caterpillar cannot breathe though its mouth, but it can breathe through holes on the sides of its body. If we ever pick up a caterpillar, when it curls up, that means the caterpillar is playing dead.  The caterpillar pushes the skin into a shell like cocoon called a chrysalis.  The caterpillar sleeps over a week and then turns into a butterfly.

Day Eighteen 12-03-09

Please check out the children's reports of today's observations.

Day Seventeen  12-02-09

The chrysalis seems to have changed a bit in 24 hours.  Read how two of the children describe what they see and then compare the two photographs yourself.  Can you see the dots they are talking about?  You may click on any photo to make it larger.

Day Sixteen  12-01-09

The students are honing their skills of observation as we watch the newest chrysalis  develop.  They will be recording the changes each day using both drawings and written descriptions.  Check back daily to watch the changes  occur.  We predicted how long it will take for this chrysalis to hatch into a butterfly.  Our guesses ranged from 3 days to 20.  The kids that were busy researching think it will be 14 days.  We can't wait to find out.  We'll be sure to keep you updated on the progress of the other chrysalises as well.

Day Fifteen  11-30-09

Our last caterpillar finally pupated and we were there to see it happen at  2:20 pm.  What an exciting thing to watch.  Now we'll start tracking how long it takes for butterflies to emerge.

Day Fourteen 11-29-09

There are 4 chrysalises now.  It looks as though one more may pupate before morning.  There is a chance that one will still be hanging in its J shape when school resumes tomorrow.  It would be wonderful if the kids could watch the transformation in person rather than via video.

Day Thirteen 11-28-09

At midnight, the second caterpillar pupated.  A video of the event is at the bottom of this post. Please check it out.  The third caterpillar pupated sometime during the night.  The first caterpillar to leave the food, was the first to pupate. The last of the three is the one with the skin still attached at the top of the pupa.  The other three caterpillars have all moved away from the food.

Day Twelve 11-27-09

10:0o p.m.
At 9:44 pm  The first caterpillar began pupating. It was the first one to go into a J shape last night.  I did manage to videotape it, but I'll work on getting that out tomorrow.  For now, check out the new chrysalis.  The first shot was taken about 20 minutes before the last shot. 
10:0o a.m.
Three of the caterpillars are are hanging in the J shape that tells us that they will soon be pupating, or turning into chrysalises. The first one to form J, did so at 10:41 last night.  I wonder if that is the one that will pupate first.  What do you think? In the other cage, there are still two feeding.

Day Eleven 11-26-09

10:00 p.m.
The caterpillars are attaching themselves with 'silk' to the top of the cage.  Try to find the white button of silk at the tip of each caterpillar.

Day Eleven  11-26-09  Happy Thanksgiving!

10:00 a.m.
If you've been keeping up with the Monarchs In Space website, you know that all of the caterpillars on the ISS have pupated.  Here on earth, ours are still in larval form.  The caterpillars in one container continue to eat.  In the other container, two seemed to have moved away from the feeding dishes. According to the Monarch Watch website, this is the first sign that they are getting ready to pupate.  I'll do my best to capture the action as it unfolds. 

Day Ten  11-25-09

The caterpillars continue to eat and grow.  It seems that's all they do. Five of the 6 are similar in size, but one seems a bit larger than the rest.  Can you spot him in the photo on the left?

Day Nine  11-24-09

The caterpillars continue to amaze us with their growth.  It seems that one set is not growing as quickly as the other.  We are wondering if the different colored food containers have anything to do with it.    Trace was curious about why the caterpillars eat their skin.  Here is what he learned:  First a caterpillar eats its egg shell.  It takes 6 hours after its birth for the black and yellow stripes to be made.  As it grows and eats its skin, the skin gives the caterpillars lots of vitamins and nourishment to grow big and healthy.    Thanks Trace!

Day Eight 11-23-09

Our caterpillars are eating and growing!

Sydney from Mrs. Rich's class explains what we were doing in the computer lab today: Today our class and Mrs. Myrmel's class went to the computer lab. We got to look at the picture of the caterpillars in the space shuttle.  It was interesting when we watched a video of the caterpillars in space. They kept on bumping each other like they were mad. Then when we were looking at the caterpillars in space, they had shed to about the same size as ours. But then unfortunately, we had to leave. 
Our caterpillars live in the hallway, so all of the students can watch the progress.  Unfortunately the halls can be a bit noisy.  Mrs. Myrmel's class spent some time this morning making signs to remind the other students to be calm near the caterpillars.  Skylar explains it this way:
Please be quiet when you are outside of our room.  We have monarch caterpillars and we don't want them to die.  The other day, we were watching the caterpillars and we were getting excited.  We got a little loud, and the caterpillar froze.  Mrs. Rich told us about a problem she had one year.  The class had a larva and it was making a chrysalis.  The class screamed in excitement, and the caterpillar stopped changing, and died.  We don't want ours to die.

Day Five  11-20-09

by Katie
A caterpillar molted today at 12:05.  We missed the actual molting, but we saw him eating his skin. When it got very noisy, the caterpillar stopped.  When it got quiet, he started again. We think we learned that the monarch caterpillars hate noise.
The photos are of the head that is left behind when a young caterpillar molts.  Be sure to notice how the photos change as the backgrounds change.  These photos were captured using our digital microscope.  The actual size isn't much larger than the head of a pin.

Caterpillars in the Space Station

These are photos taken on board the International Space Station.  If you'd like to see more of the action at the station, check out this link:

Day Four 11-19-09

The Butterfly Life Cycle by Sophie
Butterfly Life Cycle 
by Tanner G.
First an egg is laid on a milkweed plant. Then it hatches into a caterpillar and eats its egg and then it eats and eats. Next it turns into a chrysalis and then in the chrysalis it turns into a butterfly and hatches. 

Day Three 11-18-09

The space shuttle docked with the International Space Station today, so we took the caterpillars out of our closet and put them on the shelves outside the rooms. Now everyone can watch their progress, and they're causing quite a stir! According to the procedures for the experiment, the caterpillars need 12 hours of daylight. 

Day Two  11-17-09

by Mrs. Rich
The caterpillars are in their new homes.  Are you wondering why they are in a closet?  The caterpillars in the shuttle will be in the dark until Wednesday.  Since we don't want light to be a variable, ours have to live in the dark for another day too.

Day One  11-16-09

by Sydney B.

On Monday, our class and Mrs. Myrmel's class got to see the space shuttle launch.  And it had caterpillars in it!  Our class is raising butterflies too.  We are gong to see if the caterpillars go through their life cycle any differently in nearly no gravity. We watched a movie about butterflies and their life cycle.  We took notes.  At the very end we got to look at our caterpillars.  They are small, but we know they have already grown because they have shed their skin.  They eat their skin, but they do not eat the hard black stuff that was on their head.  It is in the bottom of the box.
Our Baby Caterpillars on Day One

Monarchs in the Space Shuttle

Last Friday we received this mysterious package in the mail! Inside were 6 Monarch caterpillars. We are going to be watching them grow in our classroom, and comparing their growth and behavior to the Monarch caterpillars going to live in the International Space Station, in microgravity. While we are participating in this exciting experiment, we will be learning about how scientists carefully conduct experiments. This will help us with our own scientific thinking throughout the year as we study and explore a variety of topics in science.

You can go to the Monarch Watch website to get more information about the project, and come back here often to read what's happening in our experiment. On Monday we will watch the Space Shuttle take off, carrying the caterpillars that are the same age as ours. We can't wait to see what happens!