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Essays : Majestic Monarchs

On March 25, l999, Bangor Christian School in Bangor, Maine, held the annual Junior High Science Fair. Over 100 students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades competed for plaques and ribbons. With his project entitled "Majestic Monarchs," Jonathan McLeod was awarded first place in the fifth grade by a panel of judges.

by Jon McLeod

Jon and his poster presentationABSTRACT

In my experiment, I tried to determine whether monarch butterflies were more active at a higher or lower temperature. I also checked their activity in sunlight and darkness. I found that the monarchs were much more active in sunlight at a higher temperature, than in darkness or at a lower temperature.


In my experiment I first tested whether monarchs show a preference for a particular color feeding dish. This topic was chosen when my mom found the Monarch Watch website on the Internet. However, the monarchs would not eat on their own. Then I decided to see if monarchs were more active at a warmer temperature. I also watched the monarchs to see if they were more active in sunlight than in darkness. I thought it would be interesting to do an experiment with monarchs.


In my project I worked to determine whether monarchs show a preference for a particular color feeding dish. I did this by placing different colored scrubbers in containers of nectar. I then tried to observe the monarchs eating to determine what color they preferred. My hypothesis stated that monarchs would like the red feeding dish the best. I thought this because many flowers are red. I soon found that my monarchs seldom chose any of the feeding dishes, but usually had to be fed by hand.

I then worked to determine if monarchs are more active at a warmer temperature. I did this by checking the activity levels of the monarchs at sixty degrees, seventy degrees, and eighty degrees. My hypothesis stated that if the temperature is higher, the monarchs will be more active. I thought this because monarchs migrate to a warmer climate when it gets cold. I also watched the monarchs' movement in the sunlight and in the dark. I thought that they would be more active in the sunlight than in the dark.


1. Six pupae of monarchs

2. Pencil

3. Yardstick

4. Tri-square

5. Utility knife

6. Large box (Height=22", Two Sides=30.5", Two Sides= 28.5")

7. Two rolls of 2" mailing tape

8. Four Ekco plastic mesh scrubbers (red, blue, green, yellow)

9. Four 8-ounce margarine containers

10. Butterfly nectar mix (Ordered from Monarch Watch)

11. Three yards of nylon mesh

12. Scissors

13. Six push-pin tacks

14. Paper towels

15. Small box (Height=6", Two Sides=19", Two Sides=10")

16. Pocket knife

17. Six tags (Ordered from Monarch Watch)

18. Thermometer

19. Two large dark colored towels

20. Space heater

21. Nine copies of Monarch Checklist (see below)

Monarch Checklist
Date: _________________
Room Condition: Dark or Sunlight
Temperature: 60 or 70 or 80 degrees

Number Still Flapping Flying


1. Using the pencil and tri-square, draw windows on the four sides of the large box. Each line is four inches from the edge.

2. Using the yardstick and utility knife, cut directly along the lines until the cardboard rectangles easily pop out. Now there are four windows in the box.

3. Cut the four flaps off the top of the box with the utility knife.

4. For smooth edges, tape around the top of the box and the edges of the windows with clear mailing tape.

5. Take the nylon mesh and cut it into rectangles two inches larger than each window. Use the mailing tape to tape the mesh to the inside of the box so each window is covered with mesh.

6. Cut a square piece of mesh two inches larger than the top of the box. Tape two sides of the mesh to the out- side of the box. Use the tacks on the other two sides so the box may be opened and closed.

7. Line the bottom of the box with paper towels.

8. Mix the nectar.

9. Put one scrubber in each margarine container. Fill each container with nectar.

10. Take the smaller box and place it on its side so that it is ten inches high.

11. Using the pocket knife cut four round holes in the top of the box. Place one feeding dish in each hole.

12. Place this feeding station in the butterfly box.

13. Tag the monarchs.

14. Observe the monarchs eating and record the results.

15. Hang the thermometer inside the butterfly box.

16. Take the butterfly box into the bathroom on a very sunny day and use the space heater to get the bathroom to eighty degrees. Record the monarchs' movement on the Monarch Checklist. Look for still wings, flapping wings, or flying butterflies.

17. Cover the bathroom window with the dark colored towels and record the monarchs' movement in the dark at eighty degrees.

18. Open the window and let the temperature drop to seventy degrees. Allow the sun to shine in the window. Record the monarchs' movement.

19. Cover the window with the dark colored towels and record the monarchs' movement in the dark at seventy degrees.

20. Open the window and let the temperature drop to sixty degrees. Allow the sun to shine in the window. Record the monarchs' movement.

21. Cover the window with the dark colored towels and record the monarchs' movement in the dark at sixty degrees.


spacerTotals from Monarch ChecklistspacerMonarch Activity in SunlightspacerMonarch Activity in Dark

In my experiment, I found that my hypothesis was supported by my evidence. The monarchs were very active in the sunlight at a higher temperature. As the temperature dropped, the butterflies became less active. The monarchs were still when it was dark. Since I conducted three different tests and received similar results each time, I know that my results are accurate.


In conclusion, my experiment supported my hypothesis which stated that monarchs are more active in the light at a higher temperature and are less active in the dark or at a lower temperature. I enjoyed raising the monarchs. I would not change anything in this experiment.


Carlson, Shawn. "Unraveling the Secrets of the Monarch." Scientific American, September 1997.

George, Jean Craighead. The Moon of the Monarch Butterflies. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.

Hutchins, Ross E. The Travels of Monarch X. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1966.

Lasky, Kathryn. "Monarchs." Scientific American, December 1994, p. 118.

Monarch Butterfly Facts. [Online] Available, January 11, 1999.

Monarch Watch--Challenges to Students. [Online] Available, January 3, 1999.

Pringle, Lawrence. An Extraordinary Life. New York: Orchard Books, 1997.

Rankin, Bill. "On the Track of the Monarch Butterfly." National Wildlife, April/May 1997, pp. 46-50.

Rosenblatt, Lynn M. Monarch Magic. Charlotte, Vermont: Williamson Publishing Co., 1998.

World Book Encyclopedia, 1998 ed. S.v. "Butterfly," by Lee D. Miller.


I would like to thank Mr. Jim Lovett of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas for answering all of my questions and e-mailing me back so quickly. Without his help in answering my questions, I would not have been able to do this experiment.

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