Fw: Monarchs

Jim Mason jmason at ink.org
Fri Jan 15 15:09:26 EST 1999

With Jonathan's permission, I am forwarding this to the list.  If anyone
would like to respond (directly to Jonathan, please!) I am sure he would
appreciate hearing from you.  His attention to detail with the scientific
process is quite remarkable for a high school freshman.

The main threads seem to be:
El Nino vs. Monarchs in 1998,
what exactly goes on during metamorphosis in the pupa,
the gold dots on a Monarch chrysalis and
the "ideal" range of environmental conditions for pupation.

Jim Mason
jemason at msn.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan <dizzy at nb.net>

>Dear Mr. Mason,
>My name is Jonathan Gillespie and I'm a freshman at McKeesport Area High
>School, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Your name was
>mentioned in an article on butterflies in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
>dated August 24, 1998.  I am writing to you because I'm currently
>working on a science fair project concerning monarch butterflies, using
>data I collected this past August and September.  I conducted my
>experiment over a four week period, using caterpillars and eggs that I
>collected from milkweed plants in my area.  My purpose was to determine
>the effect of temperature on the length of chrysalis metamorphosis
>time.  I found out the hard way that placing the chrysalises in
>incubators set at 90 degrees and 100 degrees (Farenheit) "cooked" them.
>Actually, at 90 degrees the chrysalises looked like they were ready to
>open after seven days (turned clear, monarch was visible inside and
>outer layer split), but no butterflies emerged.  At 100 degrees, the
>chrysalises turned a caramel color, with the tops dark brown.  There
>were no signs of development at all.  In re-thinking my experiment, I
>decided to add water to the incubators, thus raising the humidity level
>to 60% (instead of the 38% without water).  I also lowered the
>temperatures to be on the safe side.  At 80 degrees, the average length
>of metamorphosis time was 8.5 days and at 90 degrees was 6.5 days.  This
>compared to my outdoor control group (average high temperature 82
>degrees, average low temperature 62 degrees) where the average time in
>the chrysalis was 11.5 days.

>    I am writing to ask what effect did El Niño have on the butterflies
>in your area of the country?  My experiment indicates that heat and
>dryness would cause a reduction in the number of butterflies. Somehow
>these two factors interfere with what happens inside the chrysalis
>during metamorphosis.  This leads me to my second question: what
>actually happens inside the chrysalis during the metamorphosis process?
>Does anybody really know or are there just theories?  Also, what is the
>significance of the gold dots on the chrysalis?  I am hoping that you
>might provide me with some information on this subject and would greatly
>appreciate any assitance.
>Jonathan Gillespie
>403 Coulter Road
>McKeesport, PA 15131

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