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Monarch caterpillars molt (shed their skin) five times throughout their larval stage. The "skin" that is left behind is actually the caterpillar's exoskeleton. An insect's skeleton is on the outside, as opposed to on the instead like mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Endoskeletons provide support inside the body in the form of bones and cartilage, whereas As caterpillars grow, their exoskeleton gets too tight, so they need to shed it in order to continue to grow. Each molt results in a new "instar" stage. Therefore, when the egg hatches, that tiny 2 mm caterpillar is in its first instar stage.
It will molt three more times and grow exponentially over a couple of weeks. Each stage lasts 3-5 days. The fifth and final molt is when the fifth instar caterpillar becomes a chrysalis.
Example of community outreach - photo by Naturedigger
Participating in community science (also called citizen science) is key to understanding and conserving our natural world. Your help is desperately needed for surveys, counts, habitat restorations, outreach events and more. Hands-on involvement is the best way to find the right program or project that fits your interests and skill set. The best part about it, is literally anyone can participate in a community science project. Anyone!
Do you enjoy getting outside and observing animals or plants? Do invasive species trouble you? Community science projects can be extremely diverse. Determining what you enjoy enough to stick with, will help you decide what type of organization you should contact.
When you have become a community scientist, your world will open up and you will see how appreciated you are and how effective you can be. You will also understand what it means to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
Below are links to several community science opportunities. If you don't find one you're interested in, simply Google the type of program such as "invasive species monitoring opportunities near me" or simply "community science opportunities near me" to locate one that interests you.