Monarch Conservation Toolbox

Pilot Projects

Project Monarch Health

United States


Agency Type

Target or Affiliated Species or Habitat

Original Language

“Monarch Health is a citizen science project working to track the prevalence of the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) in monarch butterflies. This parasite does not infect humans but can make butterflies sick. Monarchs infected with OE may be too weak to emerge properly from their chrysalides and can die at this stage. In other cases, 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 press a clear sticker against each monarch’s abdomen to collect any parasites. The monarchs are then released, totally unharmed. Finally, citizen scientists send samples to [the] lab at the University of Georgia, where [Monarch Health] counts OE parasites using a microscope. [They] share these results with volunteers and later report the data online or in published scientific articles” (University of Georgia 2015).

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