O.e. is a protozoan parasite that must live in its host, the monarch or queen butterfly, to grow and multiply. The life cycle of O.e. mirrors that of the monarch. Spores are spread by an infected female monarch butterfly when she lays eggs and on the surrounding milkweed leaves. When the tiny caterpillar emerges it will eat its egg-sac then the nearby milkweed leaf, ingesting the spores. The dormant spores become activated in the caterpillars digestive tract. Once infected, butterflies do not recover. O.e. can cause smaller size, weak or severely deformed wing development and the inability to fully emerge from their chrysalis.
What is O.e.?
How many monarch butterflies are infect with O.e.? Studies by Dr. Sonia Altizer and her staff at the University of Georgia show the disease appears to be linked to how far monarch butterflies fly during their migration. Here is the rate of heavily infected monarch butterflies by population:
- Eastern monarchs (East of the Rocky Mountains): 8%
- Western monarchs (West of the Rocky Mountains): 30%
- Year round monarchs (South Florida) 70%
MonarchHealth is looking for more citizen-scientists to test monarch butterflies for O.e. in Arizona and report their findings for further analysis. MonarchHealth provides a kit with detailed directions to sample 30 monarchs this season. To participate or for more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can watch this video link to see how you can test monarch butterflies for O.e.:
Live Monarch O.e. testing