Jul 21 2020


Between yesterday and today I found 24 more eggs in my garden!

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Can you spot the 4 eggs visible in this picture?

I clip a little bit off of the bottom of the leaves to make the “stem” long enough to put through holes punched in the lid of this condiment cup of water. Sometimes I don’t clip the leaf off especially if the egg is really far down, like the darkest leaf you see here.

I don’t throw away the clippings if I have caterpillars, though. They aren’t picky. They just like fresh leaves! They stay fresh for a day or two after being clipped up like this and the caterpillars will eat some of it up so that it’s not wasted. ๐Ÿ™‚

So that leads me to the next part of my routine. The leafs from our other tiny caterpillars and the cup they are stuck in are in need of cleaning. Look how gross…

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The caterpillars have eaten holes all throughout the leaves, leaving not much for them to eat off of it anymore. Some of the leaves are crunchy and useless. The water is gross because their frass (or poop!) has fallen into the holes of the lid into the water and stained it murky brown. Also, the leaves are not meant to stay in water for a long time… they began to rot. Every few days, I take out all my condiment cups and clean them out.

I take off any leftover milkweed. Sometimes I have to really check it all to make sure there’s no caterpillars hiding in it. These caterpillars I knew for sure were big enough to see so I just grabbed the branch and placed it on top of my clippings.

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Since they are just clippings off of leaves there is no reason to put them in water. Sometime later this week when these clippings are eaten or dried up, I will grab a couple of full leaves from my garden and trim them and put them in water to feed the caterpillars from.

At some point as they get larger, they will eat a whole leaf within a few minutes, and then it’s not necessary to put the leaves in water. Actually, when I get caterpillars out of those 24 eggs, they will eat through the milkweed so fast that I could put an entire plant in there and it will be eaten up in no time at all!

Jeff and I are taking the kids up to northern Michigan in about a week. By the time this group of eggs’ caterpillars are big enough to eat that much I will be out of town. I will take them with me and thankfully, up north, there is TONS of milkweed! It is native to Michigan and spreads easily by root and by seeds so you will see it all along the highways and roads up north, and alongside all of the lakes.

The road to ensuring a future filled with monarchs | U.S. Fish and ...
Up north the native milkweed will look like this. It does not get mowed frequently so the plant has a chance to flower.

Actually, you see milkweed all along the highways here, too. Since those areas don’t get treated with pesticides, the milkweed survives really easily. It only gets mowed once in a while, too. Great habitat for butterflies!

It’s really easy to find up north though, like you can see above, and I’ll have plenty of food to offer them without ruining the plants in my yard. ๐Ÿ™‚

Finally, I snapped a picture from standing above my aquarium. I know it’s hard to see, but 3 stages out of 4 of the stages of their life cycle are in my tank right now. Eggs, larvae (caterpillars) and pupa (chrysalis). Here is the complete life cycle:

The Science of Monarchs โ€” Chautauqua Bird Tree & Garden Club

And here is my tank:

1: Eggs 2: Larvae / Caterpillars 3: Pupa / Chrysalis
Jul 18 2020

Caterpillar Updates

The big caterpillar who was hanging in J has now shed its last exoskeleton and hardened into a chrysalis. My friend named it Daphne which is a character who undergoes a metamorphosis in her Greek myth. There’s no way to know whether the caterpillar is male or female until it emerges as a butterfly, but I think even if it’s a male, the name Daphne is just fine.

In the picture you can clearly still see the white silk button which is holding the chrysalis to the mesh lid of the enclosure. You can also see the limb that the caterpillar used to attach itself to the button, called the cremaster. It’s more obvious now. It looks like a little stem. The butterfly parts have actually already been generated in there, and are going to take the next 8-12 days or so to mature. From this angle, you can see the abdomen (stomach) of the butterfly above the black line. The faint lines are already there.

After the first week, I will start checking on the chrysalis daily to look for a color change. Right now the chrysalis is bright green. Once its metamorphosis begins to come to an end, it will begin to darken until eventually the chrysalis looks completely black, and then for a few hours you will be able to see the pattern of the wings right through the chrysalis walls.

Once he or she is ready, he will force its way out of the chrysalis and then drop down to hang from it. They do this so that they can pump all the fluid from its body into its wings, making them expand, and then the rest of the fluid will drip off so that the butterfly can be light enough to fly. That process takes several hours but hopefully I will catch it in time to take photos! In my experience, they do this at really weird hours and I almost always miss it. I usually just wake up to a whole butterfly in the enclosure ready to take flight.

As for the babies… unfortunately it appears that only two of them survived hatching. This is pretty normal. They die for many reasons and most of the reasons are unknown. I’ve even had caterpillars wander off of the plants completely and not be able to find their way back. As much as I do to help them, sometimes they just don’t make it… and that’s okay. I’m still doing them a favor by providing them with food and shelter because I can make sure it’s not a predator that gets to them.

Most of my friends do not count how many eggs they bring in or how many newly hatched caterpillars they have. They are too small and too unstable. Most of my friends wait until the caterpillars are about as big as mine are now.

I used the end of a pencil here to give you an idea about how big the caterpillars are. From nose to buns, this caterpillar is about as long as a pencil eraser! The other caterpillar in the picture at the top of the left leaf is a tiny bit smaller.

These are the the leafs their eggs were laid on. You can see especially on the leaf the pencil is touching that the caterpillars have made good progress eating their way through that food source! When I raise from eggs, I always leave the eggs I found leafs on in the enclosure for as long as possible in case there are tiny little caterpillars that I didn’t see. Since I have the leafs in a condiment cup with water, they are still fresh for the caterpillars for now. The water is getting a little bit cruddy now, which is fine because over the next day or two I will add fresh food for them. I just like to know for sure that there are no baby caterpillars hiding out in the old leaves before I take them out. ๐Ÿ™‚

I will probably wait a week or so for the next update. The caterpillars are going to spend most of the next three weeks eating, growing, shedding, and repeating until they get as big as the other caterpillar I found! They have an exoskeleton which means they don’t have bones — their structure is formed from their outer skin which gives them shape and protection. (Also why they are unfortunately so easy to squish.) When they get too big for their outer skin, they shed it and form a new one that gives them some room to grow. Think of it like how you got a new pair of shoes every year when you were a kid, because your feet kept growing. Each shed or molt marks the end of one part of their growth cycle, called an instar. These caterpillars are in their first instar. I will try to post an update when they move on to their second. Until then, it’s just a waiting game!

I'm waiting
Jul 17 2020


Metamorphosis is when a creature changes form from one thing to another. In the butterfly life cycle, it’s when the caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

The large caterpillar I found in my garden is ready for its metamorphosis.

When they are large caterpillars, they eat a seemingly endless amount of food for a few days to get as much fuel for this metamorphosis as possible. During the change they go through, they have no way to get fuel. In fact, even butterflies do not “eat” ever again. They will drink nectar from plants which provides quick moisture and energy to give the butterfly strength to fly, but no nutrients to keep the butterfly alive for a long period of time.

My caterpillar has been happily munching on a piece of a milkweed plant that broke when I was collecting eggs, and then on the flower buds that formed on another plant. (Gardening tip: if you want a bigger, leafier plant, you need to cut off flower heads so that the plant will stop spending its energy on flowering and deliver that energy to forming more green parts instead.) Last night, it climbed to the roof of the aquarium I store my caterpillars in and searched out a spot on the mesh lid to begin its transition.

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Over the course of several hours, the caterpillar uses its mouth to create a silky web. In nature it might be on a stem or a leaf… but inside the aquarium the mesh lid is almost always where my caterpillars go to do this.

You can see the web in this picture. Us butterfly enthusiasts call it a “button.” Once the caterpillar is done making its button, they attach their back end to it with a sort of limb called a cremaster. Then they slowly let go of the mesh from all sets of their feet and hang, like you see in this picture. We say that the caterpillar is in “J” formation because they look like a J.

In all of the resources I’ve read, I’ve never read about why caterpillars do this… but they hang like this for about 24 hours before they shed and harden into a chrysalis for their metamorphosis. My best guess is that they are resting because that final shed of their exoskeleton is really difficult!

Look for an update later on today or tomorrow once this caterpillar has shed and made its chrysalis!

Jul 14 2020

Look who I found~!

I was out weeding the garden and stumbled upon this fella. I’d say he or she will be going into a chrysalis sometime this week!

Image may contain: Renee Marie, outdoor

I also found another egg before I got too hot and had to come back inside.

Jul 14 2020


I know they’re very difficult to see. iPhone cameras don’t take very good closeups.

My 4 eggs all hatched. Two can be seen on this leaf. They are about half the size of a grain of rice.

One more caterpillar is on the front of that leaf. The other one wandered off of the plant and I’m not sure if he will survive for right now. All I can do is put him back on the food and hope.

That’s the trouble with raising caterpillars. You can do everything to help them be successful and they will still find a way to not survive sometimes. Out in the wild they have about a 3% chance of survival against all of the predators out there and their survival rate is much higher in my care even if sometimes there are some losses.

I will update in a few days when they are big enough to see on camera!

Jul 13 2020

Monarch Butterflies

Hey everyone! I hope you are enjoying your summer so far!

We talked many times last year about how I raise monarch butterflies in the summertime. Usually, I am able to bring monarch eggs into the classroom at the end of the school year so that my students can see most of the life cycle before their last day. Unfortunately, that plan was spoiled in a few different ways this year.

Not only did COVID-19 completely disrupt our school year, but a very interesting thing happened in nature as well.

happy stroll in meadow

We learned about adaptations this year — how some animals have traits that have allowed them to survive and reproduce and continue on the success of their species.

Butterflies cannot survive in temperatures below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is not warm enough outside, they slow down and are unable to flap their wings for take-off. This is an interesting fact that humans have taken advantage of to offer things called “butterfly releases.” A company raises Monarch butterflies and then cools them below 50-60 degrees, causing them to slow down on purpose. Then, they carefully tuck them into a folded piece of paper inside of a box and sell them to people who are arranging weddings, funerals, birthdays, etc. If you let the box warm up to 60 degrees or so, then when you open the box, the paper unfolds and the butterflies fly out and it can be a really beautiful ceremony. They are able to do this because the butterfly does not freeze to death at this temperature… they just slow down to conserve their energy for when it is warm enough for them to fly.

Anyway, this trait that keeps the butterflies from being able to fly in the cold poses an issue in places like Michigan. They obviously would not survive the freezing temperatures of winter!

Most monarchs that become adults in the summertime only live for a couple of weeks. They mate, lay eggs, and die off in cycles throughout the summer. Then something strange happens..! Every year, in September, all of the Monarch adult butterflies begin to feel the cold weather and their natural instinct is to fly south. They actually keep flying all the way to Mexico… some flying over 3,000 miles to get there. They collect by the millions in one central area of the Mexican mountains and forests. Check out this video footage of all the butterflies that flew south for the winter:

After the winter is over, the temperature starts to change in Mexico, and this triggers the butterfly’s instincts to fly all the way back north. These butterflies live for 8 months and once they have made their return trip, they will mate and lay eggs for the new summer cycles to begin, which in Michigan occurs at the end of May.

The reason Michigan’s “monarch season” begins in May is very specific. Not only do we have to wait for the butterflies to fly all the way back here from Mexico, we also have to wait for nature to give the butterflies the clues that it’s okay to return. Remember, butterflies do not do well in temperatures below 50 degrees… and we still get random cold days in May!

Nature is remarkable, though. The butterflies fly north following something very specific: milkweed. Milkweed is a green leafy plant that is native to North America and grows in wildflower pastures. There are a few different kinds of milkweed plants, but the important thing about them is that they are the ONLY plant that baby monarch caterpillars will eat. Adult butterflies can drink nectar from any nectar flower, but they will only lay eggs on milkweed leaves so that when they hatch a caterpillar, the caterpillar is already attached to its food source. Adaptations!

So, because this is my hobby, my home garden is not planted to look extremely pretty like some people’s flowers might look. I actually plant weeds on purpose that many people would pull out of their lawn or garden! My garden is a mixture of 2-3 different types of milkweed plants and a bunch of different types of wildflowers. I plant them side by side to signal to the adult butterflies that it’s a good place to stop by — they can grab a drink from the flowers, and then stop off at the milkweed and lay their eggs!

This year, one of the most disappointing things was our wonky weather in May. We had cold days late into the spring which caused the milkweed to not pop up as early as usual. Most people’s milkweed didn’t even start poking through the soil until June. Normally, I would have already been feeding my first cycle of monarch caterpillars for about 1-2 weeks!

Without milkweed, the butterflies do not fly back. They wait in southern states until the food source is acceptable for their babies. Adaptations!

So, this year, Michigan’s monarch season got a late start. Even if COVID didn’t keep us out of the classroom, most of my butterfly garden friends didn’t even see Monarchs in their garden until late June, way after school ended.

With the stress of everything from COVID, I decided not to do as much with my monarch habit this year. Usually, I would go for a drive and find milkweed along the road or in the gardens of businesses and search them for eggs! I didn’t do that this year. However, I do have a few milkweed plants growing in my garden and I have checked them a few times throughout the summer and not found any eggs. I decided it was probably just not a good summer for me to do it…

Well, I happened to check last night, and I found 5 eggs!

Milkweed leaves with white, oval-shaped eggs underneath

Well, I thought it was 5 anyway. The leaf on the left side actually didn’t have an egg on it. The tricky thing about milkweed is that when you disturb the plant, a milky substance leaks out of it — this is another adaptation for the butterfly, actually, because the milk from the leaves is toxic to most creatures. Many predators will avoid the leaves because they will get sick if that liquid gets ingested. The adaptation is that the eggs look a lot like the milk does after it leaks out and dries on the leaf. Sometimes I will pick a leaf thinking there’s an egg on it, but it is just a spot of dried sap from that milky liquid. That’s what happened to #5… there never was an egg in the first place!

So… I’ve got 4 eggs. When the eggs hatch, teeny tiny little caterpillars will eat their way out of the egg shell and start munching on the leaves. Every 5 days or so, the caterpillar will get too big for its skin, shed it, and continue growing in a process called molting. I will try to document the molting process of my 4 little caterpillars here for anybody who still subscribes to my iBlog and is interested in reading about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

For now, it’s a waiting game. The eggs take a couple of days to hatch. When I was setting up their leaves to stay fresh for their hatching, I noticed some of the eggs are already beginning to get darker – that’s a good sign. The caterpillar is growing inside of them and as he or she gets bigger, the egg looks darker. I suspect that around dinner time I should have an update for you and I can show you the itty bitty caterpillars that have hatched!

Monarch leaves with their stems in water.

The leaves must be fresh for the baby caterpillars to begin eating right away upon hatching. Keeping them in water keeps them from drying out. Sometimes I cut out the section of the leaf with the egg on it and set that on a larger, fresh leaf . It all depends on how many leaves are on my plants — if I run out, it’s a pain in the neck to find more milkweed to feed the caterpillars. Cutting out the eggs keeps the rest of the leaf on the plant where it can keep growing and stay alive.

For now, these leaves are very small and I just pulled the whole leaf off. The caterpillar can eat from the leaf its on as long as it is still in good condition. If they are in water, usually I can keep the caterpillars on their own leaf for about a week before I have to add fresh food for the growing caterpillars!

Check back in a few days for updates. ๐Ÿ™‚

Jun 11 2020

Final Grades

This is it! It’s the end, now, and WE MADE IT!!!!

cool emoji balloons

All of the final scores have been entered and grades are now finalized. I just wanted to share a little bit of data with you because as a scientist I love to analyze information!

The class average is taking all student scores, adding them together, and dividing them by how many students there are to come up with the average score per student. Some students score lower than average, some higher. The average gives you an idea of how well the class did as a whole.

Class Averages (Year Long):
1st hour: 86% B
2nd hour: 76% C
3rd hour: 79% C+
4th hour: 79% C+
6th hour: 83% B-

I strive for “at least 75%” in each class and I’m so proud and happy to say that we met that goal and in many cases we exceeded it by a lot!

Bitmoji Image

Don’t forget the drive-through 8th grade promotion tomorrow! Here is a link to the official information, which I will summarize below:

When: June 11, 10 am – 12 noon

Where: Hubbard Street outside of the small gym, door #7 (same door as locker / chromebook pick-ups)

How: Hang a sign on the car with your name clearly labeled. Any 8th grader in the vehicle should have a sign with their name on the passenger side of the car or window. Ask your parents to drive the car on to Hubbard from Ternes Street (traffic will be one-way at this time). Everyone must stay in the car at all times so that we can follow CDC regulations against COVID-19! A staff member will bring your certificate of completion to your car for you. Wave at us as you go by so that we can celebrate with you!

Bitmoji Image
Jun 10 2020


I am posting an assignment on Google Classroom right now. It is optional. ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a great summer!

Jun 9 2020



Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data.

For a better future of our city, schools, and students , please click on the link now and fill out the census. It only takes a few minutes from your time to make a difference.

Complete the Census application here: 


Jun 7 2020


Hello everyone! I’ve gotten a few e-mails lately from students who are anxious to get their late work graded. I just wanted to thank those of you who are patient during this time.

School is the main priority for all of you because at your age, it’s your job to do well in school and learn what you can while you are here. Please be conscious of the fact that your teachers have other things going on, though. I am not just your teacher. I have many responsibilities other than being your classroom teacher that keep me extremely busy on a day-to-day basis.

you got it boss

My classroom policy for late work has always been set in stone, and with remote learning it has not changed. I accept late work throughout the entire quarter up until a date that I set (June 8th). I communicate the date to you and you are allowed to turn in whatever you want until that date. HOWEVER, if it is late work, I grade it when I have time and it is not high on my list of priorities. Let’s be honest — if you’re turning it in late, it wasn’t high on your priority list, either. My only promise to you is that it will be graded before I submit your report card grade.

So, thank you for your patience. There is no need to e-mail me to ask me to grade your late work. I will do it when I do it, and I appreciate your understanding on that!

However, please DO email me if you are stuck on something, need somebody to talk to, want to tell me something good or bad that happened to you, or need my support with something. I always have time for that and it is very high on my priority list!

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