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Butterfly Growth and Temperature

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You all like to grow up and become an adult, don't you? We don't know what insects feel like but sure they have to grow up too. The process is known as metamorphosis. Most insects are born as eggsbutterfly and break their eggshells and come out as they grow and develop. There are two types of metamorphosis - simple metamorphosis and complete metamorphosis. In simple metamorphosis, as seen in grasshoppers, only wings are seen to develop. In other insect species, there is a complete metamorphosis from a grub or caterpillar-like larva to the adult body form (as in beetles and butterflies). Butterflies undergo complete metamorphosis. Scientific experiments have proved that seasonal variation in temperature strongly affects conditions for growth and development in butterflies. You can conduct a little experiment to check whether it is true. The purpose of this insect science project experiment is to determine how temperature affects the growth of butterflies.

We advice you to use the painted lady butterfly for your project. The caterpillars are cultured, and are available year-round. The adult butterflies are common in North America, and are unlikely to harm local ecosystems if released (Darmo, date unknown). An adult female painted lady butterfly lays about 500 blue-green eggs, on plants that the larvae will eat when they hatch. The eggs hatch in about 3–5 days. The larvae eat constantly, and pass through six instar stages (five molts) over about 12–18 days before pupating. The adults typically emerge in about ten days.

Materials needed:
1) An insect science projects kit (suggestion: Butterfly Pavilion Kit)
2) Camera
3) Thermometer
4) Paper
5) Pencil


1) Collect some painted butterfly larvae.

2) Get help from your parents on how to care for the caterpillars.

3) Measure and record the length of the caterpillars.

4) Place 5 caterpillars and food in a cup. Place it in a high position in a room, like over a bookcase or high shelf. Record the temperature in this location.

5) Place another 5 caterpillars and food in another cup. Place it in a cooler location in the room, such as near the floor. Note the temperature in this location. The temperature should be at least 2 degrees cooler.

6) Check both cups daily and record any minor change you observe in the way the look and sizes of the caterpillars. To be sure, take pictures of your caterpillars everyday.

7) Record the time and the date on which the caterpillars in each location become chrysalises.

8) When the caterpillars become butterflies, take your parents help to care for them. When they are older and can fly, set them free.

9) Repeat experiment.

Write down in brief the results of your insect science projects experiment. Graph and chart your data and compare your results. Record whether the caterpillars in each location grew at the same rate, which group grew the fastest and write down the factors you think to be the reason. Also write if you got the same results when you repeated the experiment. Explain patterns in your data. Write whether or not your data supported your hypothesis. If not, explain the reasons. Evaluate your project and make suggestions for improvements.


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