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Try either Butterfly Experiment – they are easy and make a perfect kid science project.
Experiment 1: How does temperature affect a butterfly?
Experiment 2: What leaves do caterpillars like?
The Question: Does cold or warm temperatures affect how a caterpillar grows?
- Record the date your caterpillars arrive.
- Place 3 cups with caterpillars and food in them in a warm area of the room, like a high shelf.
- Place 3 other cups with caterpillars and food in them in a cooler place in the room, like near the floor.
- Measure the temperatures at each location daily and record them. There should be 2 to 3 degrees in difference between the 2 spots for best results.
- Record the date the caterpillars in each area becomes a chrysalis.
Did the caterpillars grow at the same rate in both places? Which place did they grow fastest? Why would a caterpillar grow best at this temperature?
The Facts: A caterpillar’s growth is related to the environment temperature. Insects like caterpillars are cold-blooded, so their body is the same temperature as the environment. Because of this they are more active during warmer times of the year. Since the plants caterpillars use for food also grow during the warmer times of the year, warm temperatures are also best for the caterpillar. If the caterpillars started to grow before the plants did, it would be bad for the caterpillar! If there is a 2 to 3 degree difference in the 2 spots you placed the cups, the cooler caterpillars may be 3 to 8 days behind in growth compared to the warm area ones.
The Question: What kinds of leaves do Painted Ladies like?
- Find several kinds of leaves around your home. See if you can find some thistle, nettle or hollyhock as they do like those and it would be good to have some in your experiment. Or you can get some leaves at the grocery store, like spinach, different types of lettuces, turnip leaves or radish tops.
- Find a short jar with a wide bottom (easy to reach into) and line the bottom with a moist paper towel.
- Cut an equal bit from each type of leaf and place them onto the paper towel. Remember which bit belongs to which type of leaf.
- Add up to 5 caterpillars into your jar and put the top back on. Observe for 2 days. Repeat the experiment with other caterpillars to make sure your results are the same.
- Make a chart- on one side put the type of leaf and on the other side mark if the caterpillars liked it.
What leaves did the Painted Lady caterpillars like to eat?
The Facts: In the wild, Painted Lady caterpillars like thistle, nettle, hollyhock, malva and fiddleneck plants the best. In your experiment, the caterpillars may try several of the different leaves you provided. Once they find one they like, they will consume a large part of the leaf. Different types of caterpillars eat different types of plants – now that you know what Painted Ladies like, you can look online to find out what other caterpillars like. What do Monarch caterpillars eat? Would they eat the same plant as the Painted Ladies? It’s better for different types of caterpillars to eat different types of plants so they don’t all compete for the same food sources.
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