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Monarch’s Taste

Humboldt Jr. High School
St. Paul, MN

Abstract

In our experiment we tested to see if monarchs had a preference for natural flower colors (those they see in nature) or unnatural colors. We used pink as our natural color and brown as our unnatural color. We put each butterfly in a cage with 2 flowers, one of each color, and observed its behavior. In 4 out of 5 trials, the butterfly chose the more natural pink over the brown. Due to our small sample size though, we are unsure if this is an actual preference or just a coincidence.

Problem

What do monarchs prefer, natural (pink) or unnatural (brown) flower colors?

Hypothesis

The monarch butterflies will prefer the natural colored flowers over the unnatural colored flowers.

Justification

In the wild, monarchs only see natural colored flowers, so I think they will rely on natural instinct.

Method

  1. Put honey on carnations and dye one pink and one brown.
  2. Place flowers in a shoebox cage
  3. Place one butterfly in a cage, between the two flowers
  4. Observe and record the butterfly's color choice and behavior
  5. Repeat with new, hungry butterflies

Results

Four out of five butterflies chose the natural color (pink) over the unnatural color (brown).

Butterfly GenderColor ChoiceTime to Choose (min)Time it ate (min)
Mpink and brown13 (pink), 1.5 (brown)
Fpink30.5
Fpink0.11
Fpink0.52
Mpink0.32

Conclusion

We wanted to find out if monarchs had an instinct that attracted them to natural flower colors. The monarchs chose the natural color pink over the unnatural brown 4 out of 5 times. However, this is a small sample size, so some of this results may have been coincidence. Other students did not get the same results. We learned that monarchs rely on instinct and that they can eat for 3 minutes straight!

Next Time

If we were to repeat this experiment, we would use a larger cage with lots of monarchs and many different colors of natural and unnatural flowers.

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