Monarch Health is a citizen science project to track the prevalence of the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) in monarch butterflies. Monarchs infected with OE may be too weak to emerge properly from their chrysalises and can die at this stage. Or, infected monarchs can look completely normal but cannot fly as well or live as long as healthy monarchs. To check for OE in monarchs, citizen scientists first obtain wild adult monarchs by either catching them or rearing caterpillars until they become adults. Second, citizen scientists can press a clear sticker against each monarchs' abdomen to collect any parasites. Monarchs are then released, totally unharmed. Finally, citizen scientists send samples to the lab at the University of Georgia, where OE parasites are counted under a microscope. Results are shared with volunteers and later the data are reported online or in published scientific articles.
Protocol Type: Capture, Disease, Rearing
Data Type(s): Presence/absence
Survey Focus: Adults, Disease
Visit Frequency: Opportunistic
Altizer, S., Hobson, K.A., Davis, A.K., De Roode, J.C., and L. I. Wassenaar. 2015. Do healthy monarchs migrate farther? Tracking natal origins of parasitized vs. uninfecgted monarch butterflies overwinterin in Mexico. PLoS ONE 10(11):e014371