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Monarch Butterflies in Peril ?

Gloves are used to avoid contamination.
Gloves are used to avoid contamination.
Royce Pendergast

Much has been published about the fascinating and hazardous flight made by monarch butterflies each fall to their wintering grounds in central Mexico. But some monarchs choose to stay in southern Texas for the winter.

Citizen scientists prepare to sample monarch butterflies for parasites.
Royce Pendergast

These overwintering species are being watched closely and tested for infestation of OE. OE is a tiny parasite that infects monarch and queen butterflies. The OE spores occur on the outside of an infected monarch’s body and can be transmitted to other monarchs. The Southern Initiative of MonarchHealth is investigating how the Texas wintering monarchs affect the spread of the OE parasite.

My granddaughter, Madeline, has been assisting me in sampling local wintering monarchs for OE testing.

The procedure involves netting a butterfly, which is no easy task. The monarch is then inspected to determine the sex and placed in a glassine envelope to transport for sampling.

Gloves and bleach are used to keep the working area sterile. The monarch is removed from its envelope using one gloved hand. The wings are pressed together. A clean Q-tip is swabbed back and forth on the butterfly’s abdomen to pick up scales and possible OE spores. The sample Q-tip is placed in the glassine envelope from which the butterfly was removed.

Next a clear sticker is placed around the abdomen of the monarch and removed. The sticker is placed on an index card where the black scales and possible OE can be seen.

Now the butterfly is ready to be released. Data concerning where and when the samples were taken are recorded and sent to the project MonarchHealth team. Volunteers are informed if any OE is found on their samples.

To learn more about this program contact: monarchhealth@gmail.com

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