Project Monarch Health
Studying Disease in Wild Monarchs

Monarchs have many natural enemies, including parasites. Monarch Health is a citizen science survey project that tracks the occurence of a protozoan parasite is called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, or OE for short.

Researchers at the University of Georgia invite you to collect data on wild monarchs to help track levels of this debilitating parasite. The parasites cannot infect humans, but can harm monarchs through lowered survival, reduced mating success and poorer flight performance. OE infection appears closely tied to monarch migration, with long-distance migration helping to reduce OE levels each year. Migration may allow monarchs to flee areas with high levels of parasites.

  • For more information, resources and ways to volunteer visit Monarch Health.

"We would be excited to have you join our team of citizen scientists," says Dr. Sonia Altizer.

The OE parasite is a specialist. It is only found in the monarch butterfly and its close relative, the queen. The life cycles of the two organisms are interconnected. In fact, OE cannot complete its life cycle without its host and so is called an obligate parasite.

You can help scientists learn how this disease is affecting the wild monarchs in your area. Collecting data involves catching or rearing wild monarchs and pressing a clear sticker against the monarch's abdomen to collect any external OE parasites. It's easy, fast, and does not hurt the butterfly.

Volunteers Needed: Project Monarch Health
Dr. Altizer

"Long-distance migration appears to help reduce levels of OE infection."

Dr. Sonia Altizer

Volunteers Needed: Project Monarch Health
Catching wild monarchs
Volunteers Needed: Project Monarch Health Monarch population hits record low in Mexico Monarch Butterfly Egg
Collecting Spores Magnified Spores Life Cycles