Long story short, the Monarch butterfly tastes bitter so predators aren't as likely to eat it. The Viceroy butterfly has similar markings to the Monarch, so predators avoid it, too, because they think it will taste bitter like that Monarch. Soooo to demonstrate this concept for the kiddos, I created the following experiment.
I started by filling cups with different types of soda. Cup A was filled about half way with Sprite:
Cup B was filled about half way with Seltzer water:
Cup C was filled half way with more Seltzer water and Cup D was filled half way with Diet Coke (any dark soda would work):
I started by giving each student one Cup A and one Cup B.
They worked in groups to record observations about each cup. We then listed the following observations on the board.
- has gas/bubbles
- looks the same as Cup A
- has gas/bubbles
I then told the students that the cups represented two different butterflies and that they were going to pretend to be a predator that wants to eat the butterflies. They were then allowed to "eat" butterfly A (the Sprite). I asked them how butterfly tasted and they all agreed that it was good!
They then predicted that butterfly B (the Seltzer water) would taste good, too, because it looked just like butterfly A. They were allowed to taste it.....
...and all began yelling "EWWWW THAT'S NASTY!!!!!!" and "THAT MADE ME SICK, MISS HUNT!!" Next we discussed the difference between looking the same and tasting the same. The students quickly made the connection that the Sprite mimicked the Seltzer water like the Viceroy mimics the Monarch.
I then took the experiment one step farther. I showed them Cup C (Seltzer water) and Cup D (Diet Coke). I told them that it was the next day and they were hungry and looking for a meal again. I held up the cups and told them that they saw two butterflies go by...one that looked the same as the two that ate yesterday and one that looked completely different. I asked them if they would take a chance on the clear "butterfly" knowing that there was a 50% chance it would be a nasty one or if they would choose the brown "butterfly". All but one kiddo yelled "THE BROWN ONE". My one defiant little guy said "Well I would still take the clear one 'cause I bet it would be the good tastin' one." I handed him the clear cup and let him taste that it was the Seltzer water again. He changed his mind in a heartbeat and said "I WAS WRONG! I WANT THE BROWN ONE!!!"
All in all, the experiment was a huge success! The students were talking about mimicry for the rest of the day!