Educational material and background information about Monarchs in Space can be downloaded at the Monarch Watch website.
On a personal note, one elementary class in my area will be receiving some Monarch larvae tomorrow and I hope to be able to participate and observe the classroom activity and offer assistance when possible.
Linda Currie, Texas Master Naturalist
Daily notes of project:
November 13, 2009, Caterpillars have arrived with artificial food diet. Same diet Monarchs will feed on in space. Monarch Watch developed this artificial diet during the past 6 months. Class received 6 Monarch caterpillars and 5 small tubs of the food. The cats are tiny and cute and appeared to be healthy.
I made first visit to the class to observe the class and provide assistance as needed.
Teacher asked me to speak to class.
I told them a little bit about my career job and then mentioned my hobby as a Texas Master Naturalist. I answered some questions about the Monarch Butterfly and general butterfly questions. The students had lots of great questions. I challenged students this weekend when outside to observe nature and report back any butterflies they see. This weekend I plan on making a Monarch Butterfly poster and using this for this project and future educational talks.
November 14, 2009, Working on design for new Monarch butterfly posters this weekend. A poster visually showing the caterpillar's development would be good for this week. Students should be observing their caterpillars this week growing. Also thinking about a poster that would integrate Monarch topic with Space Mission.
November 15, 2009, Working on a poster to show the 5 Instars of the Monarch caterpillar. Added photo taken in class on last Friday and will have class help me determine what Instar caterpillar we had on Friday. And also how big are caterpillars on Monday? How fast are caterpillars growing? Plan on helping them keep track of growth rate this week. Plan on taking a cutting from a tropical milkweed plant for demonstation also. My own caterpillar may pupa tonight so may not have a 5th star to take to class tomorrow. Shuttle is still on schedule for launch tomorrow around 1:30pm in afternoon. 15 hours - 40 minutes til launch.
November 16, 2009, Delivered poster to class. Poster shows the 5 instars of the caterpillar. Photo of antelope milkweed which is a host plant. Photo of frass. And a couple photos of the Monarch in Space Caterpillars. I have a ruler next to one of the caterpillars and you can see the size of caterpillars as delivered from Monarch Watch. The caterpillars even though small appeared to be 3rd or 4th instar caterpillars. I found 5th instar caterpillar in my backyard so placed in a habitat and took to class so they could see a 5th instar caterpillar. A student in the class named my caterpillar "BOB", so I refer to my cat as "BOB". We appear to have 4 healthy space experiment caterpillars. Teacher informed me that Sunday one caterpillar died. On Monday morning she discovered another caterpillar had got caught in tape in habitat and also died. I forgot my camera today, so no photos. I had also mailed thru inter-office mail some Monarch Watch bookmarks which the class happily received. THE SHUTTLE ALSO LAUNCHED SUCCESSFULLY as scheduled!!!!
November 17, 2009, Found a couple eggs in garden and a couple of caterpillars which appeared to be recently hatched. Took these items for show & tell so the students could get closer look at 2nd instar caterpillars. Teacher helped students view caterpillars thru a magnifing glass. Teacher informed me that class will be creating a Powerpoint presentation on the Monarch in Space project. "Bob" was hanging in the J formation this morning. "Bob" should be a PUPA by tomorrow. Our FAV 4 caterpillars appeared to be bigger today. They are really growing. I brought my camera, but battery died. Again no photos. Teacher has camera, so I asked her to take extra photos for me. Note: my caterpillars, eggs and "BOB" are in their own individual habitats, so as to not "taint" the Monarch in Watch experiment.
November 18, 2009, Made another trip to visit class. "BOB" did the PUPA dance very soon after I left the class yesterday. Several students had a very close look at Bob's transformation. I looked at chrysalis and it looks like it might be a boy. It is hard to see thru netting but it does appear to be a boy. Practice will help me get this correct. Students were very excited and students asked several more questions about butterflies which I did my best to answer students. All cats appear to be well and growing. "Space" cats seem to be bigger each day that I see them. A couple of cats appeared to be getting ready for skin shedding. I'll find out tomorrow. In my own garden, I found another cat. I will take a few fresh leaves and take to class tomorrow. If I leave other cats with teacher over the Thanksgiving break, I may have to take even more milkweed. I'll see if she wants to cat sit. Received an email that the "MONARCH WATCH CATS" had arrived at ISS and the first photos were coming in. Check www.monarchwatch.org/space to see photos.
November 19, 2009, Class had early release today, so I missed seeing students. I delivered one more tiny cat that I found in my backyard garden. I examined eggs and don't think any of these will hatch. I removed a moldy leaf from the egg habitat. Added the 3rd tiny cat with the other two tiny cats and a one small top of a milkweed plant. These cats are 1st or 2nd instars. Examined the "suspect" caterpillar that I thought might be a ladybug, but it may be a fly. I noticed that the aphids on the plant with the two cats were disappearing. So, I put an aphid near this larva and it grab the aphid and started eating it. I remembered that I had taken another piece of milkweed with some aphids on it, so I found this milkweed stem and put it in a separate container with the fly larva. It will be interesting how this larva develops and if it eats the aphids tonight. Tomorrow, I need to deliver milkweed to last for next week and more aphids for the larva. The classes "space cats" looked healthy, eating and growing. On a side note, noticed the teacher had something really cool in her classroom, Walking sticks in an aquarium. So, cool....!!!!
November 20, 2009 Delivered a couple of water bottles filled with milkweed. The teacher will cat sit my cats over the holidays. I've supplied 4 cats. The first one is currently in chrysalis. The other 3 are still #2 instars, but are growing. A 3rd habitat has a larva that may be a fly larva. It is currently munching down on aphids that were on one of the milkweed stems I delivered. We are going to feed the aphids to this larva and see what develops. The "space" cats in the classroom lab experiment are still eating and growing. 2 of the cats appear to be much larger than the other 2. We only have a few more days before students leave for Thanksgiving break, so hopefully cats will PUPA before this time. Students are really excited to see the ISS cats progress.
November 21, 2009 Cats in space seem to be doing good and look large. Noticed that the videos have also been added to monarchwatch site and not just youtube. The school district that I am working with blocks youtube. This is the weekend so do not know how the classroom cats are doing.
December 3, 2009 Took Thanksgiving break for a week. Visited class earlier this week. Bob the butterfly had eclosed from PUPA and looks great. Teacher has transferred Bob to a bigger habitat and is giving Bob sugar water and gatorade. We only have one space cat left. Two of the space cats died during Thankgiving week. The last remaining one does not look good. We do have two Kingwood home-grown cats still left and looking healthy. I allowed students to lightly touch cats. I took them some fresh milkweed and we now have them in a small net habitat. Bob flew off this morning while being transferred to new habitat and was last briefly. Bob was found sitting on Chalk Board tray. Bob was then safely transferred into the larger butterfly habitat. Weather is strange: we may get snow, so Bob will get to stay with us for a while as the weather turns colder and freezing. One of the Kingwood cats is reported to be a PUPA now. The students are getting to see the life cycle process so this is good learning opportunity. NOTE: Two of the PUPAs on ISS have eclosed. One is a girl and the other is a boy. PUPA of girl was floating and Monarch still was able to eclose. Wings have slight curl but look like butterflies should still be able to fly if they were on earth.