Teaching Suggestions
How Do the Monarch Larva's Legs Help it Survive?

Crawling along a paper-thin leaf. Eating while hanging upside down. Monarch caterpillars defy gravity. Through close-up images of the monarch larva's legs, students explore adaptations that help monarchs survive on a milkweed plant.

Essential Question:
How do the monarch larva's legs help it survive?




1. Make Observations
Display the cover photo that shows a close-up view of the caterpillar's legs. Use guiding questions to help students describe details they see:

  • How would you describe the legs of a monarch caterpillar?
  • How do you think a caterpillar uses its legs to survive in its environment?
  • What questions do you have?

2. Introduce and Read Slideshow
Take a picture-walk through the images in the slideshow photo gallery. Have students imagine what it's like to live—and eat—on a milkweed plant. Encourage students to predict how the caterpillar's legs help it survive in its environment. Next, read the slideshow together.

3. Revisit for Understanding
Distribute the journal page and read aloud the question: How is the caterpillar using its legs to help it survive in its environment?

Challenge students to use words from the slideshow to describe several details for each photo (larvae, true legs, false legs, prolegs, crochets, midvein, petiole, stalk).

Sample response: "The crochets grip the felt-like texture of the milkweed. The larva uses the velcro-like tips of its prolegs to grasp the leaf."

Provide sentence starters for students who need additional help:

  • The larva uses its prolegs to...
  • The crochets allow the caterpillar to...
  • On a milkweed leaf, a caterpillar is able to...

4. Summarize Learning
Provide time for students to share their journal responses. Summarize the activity by reviewing the definition of adaptations and encouraging students to give examples:

  • Physical adaptations: the number, shape, structure, and location of true legs, prolegs, crochets.
  • Behavioral adaptations: eating a milkweed leaf while hanging upside down, crawling along a leaf without falling, gripping milkweed leaf, hiding under a leaf.


Magnified view of monarch butterflyCover Photo


Photo Gallery
Photo Gallery


Journal Page
Journal Page


An adaptation is a physical characteristic or a behavior that helps an animal survive in its environment.