Project MonarchHealth is a citizen-science survey of the occurrence of the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), which parasitizes monarch butterflies. Best known for their migrations between breeding and wintering sites throughout North America, these butterflies are also found in non-migratory populations in places such as southern Florida. This parasite is not harmful to humans; however, it can harm the butterflies by inhibiting normal growth and lowering butterfly survival in the wild.

To check for parasites, surveyors can swab the abdomen of live butterflies to collect parasite spores. MonarchHealth participants help scientists map the location and infection levels of OE in monarchs throughout the United States and determine how much disease the parasites cause.

The most essential activity is capturing and sampling wild monarchs. Either capture monarch butterflies as adults or raise the caterpillars in separate containers until they become adult butterflies. In either case, you will gently tape each butterfly’s abdomen with a sticker to collect the OE spores. Next, you will send the sample, along with a simple data sheet for each butterfly, back to the scientists at the Altizer lab where they will analyze the sample. After the data are compiled, we will send you the results of your sampling contribution as well as post them on our results page for the public to see.