University of Minnesota

How Does Temperature Affect the Butterfly After Emerging?

Stephanie Warren
McGuire Jr. High School
Lakeville, MN


I wanted to find out if butterflies live better in warm or room temperatures. I took two fifth instar caterpillars and put them in buckets; one on a heat rock and the other in a room with normal temperature. The butterfly emerging from warm temperature was bigger and healthier. Then we took two caterpillars and put one in a room temperature, and the other in warm temperature. The butterfly emerging from room temperature was smaller and less healthy than the warm temperature butterfly. I think that if I tested more butterflies my results would be more accurate.


The purpose of this experiment was to find out if temperature affects the growth of the pupae and the effects that it has on the butterfly after emerging.


The butterfly emerging from the room temperature pupa will be slightly smaller than the butterfly emerging from the warm temperature pupa. I think this because from my research I found that the monarch, like feathered flocks, fly southward to escape the killing frosts of winter. From my research I also found that in the winter months, the monarchs vanish from the colder regions and travel great distances to Texas, Florida, and other warm regions. Finding this out, I realized that birds go south for the winter to stay warm and figured that that must be the reason that the monarchs also go. Because of my research, I think that the butterflies emerging from pupae kept in warm temperatures will be larger and healthier than those from pupae kept in room temperature.

Background Information

Some information that I found was very interesting. Monarchs can travel great distances for migration and the reproductive cycle. The butterfly skims and flies from Texas to New England, from Florida to Minnesota. In the winter, the monarch butterfly vanishes from the colder regions. Do you know where it goes? The monarchs crowd by the millions in central Mexico to spend the midwinter months in semidormancy. Monarch migration is very interesting and baffles many people. Some monarchs flying south in the fall return to their summer breeding grounds, although none survive longer than a year. Unlike many other insects in temperate climates, monarch butterflies cannot survive a long, cold winter. Instead, they spend the cold winters in warm climates such as Mexico and Florida. If they linger too long they won’t be able to make the journey because they are cold-blooded and are unable to fly in cold weather. The fat that they store in the abdomen is a critical element of their survival for the long cold winters. In October to November, when the weather starts to get cold, the monarchs start their journey to thirteen roosting sites west of Mexico City, Mexico. The butterflies hang out there for the winter and in the spring they will find a partner and mate. It is a continuous cycle affected by the weather. To sum this all up, the monarch butterfly cannot live a healthy life in cold climates. They live longer and healthier in the warmer climates.


  1. two fifth instar caterpillars
  2. two clear, plastic boxes
  3. one heat rock
  4. one room temperature place
  5. two thermometers
  6. juice
  7. paper towels
  8. sponges
  9. milkweed


One control in my experiment is the identical amounts of milkweed and juice given to each specimen. We also did not change the position of the pupae during the experiment.


The dependent variable in my experiment is how the butterfly acts and looks like after pupating in different temperatures. The independent variable in my experiment is the hot and room temperatures that they will be growing in.


  1. Find two clear buckets
  2. Find two fifth instar caterpillars
  3. Wet a paper towels and put them in the bottom of the buckets
  4. Put 2.5 milkweed leaves in each buckets
  5. Put one caterpillar in each bucket
  6. Put a thermometer into each of the buckets
  7. Put one of the buckets on a heat rock
  8. Put the other bucket on the floor in the corner of the room
  9. Check buckets everyday for pupation and progress
  10. Put fresh paper towels in the buckets everyday
  11. Put 2.5 milkweed leaves in the buckets each day until pupation
  12. After they have emerged, feed the butterflies juice
  13. Record the deaths and actions of the caterpillars and butterflies


(Photo: Stephanie Warren)

The warm temperature pupa resulted in a larger and healthier butterfly in the end. If I were to do this again, I would change the number of pupae that I tested and I might put a couple pupae in the refrigerator. The pupa in the room temperature was fairly smaller than the pupa in the warm temperature. The butterfly from the room temperature pupa had a hard time eating the juice and I often found myself having to force its probiscus out of its mouth. I didn’t really have many problems with my experiment. I was very lucky in that area. I think that a caterpiller, pupa, or butterfly can live well in warm or room temperature. I would suggest, though, that if you would like a big and healthy butterfly in the end, to raise them in warmer temperatures over any other.

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