Butterfly Oe Parasite Monitoring Project

Location: Gulf Coast

Contact Name: Linda Barber Auld

Contact Email: nolabuglady@gmail.com




The greater Gulf Coast shoreline area has long been known to be a spring east-bound flyway for monarchs remigrating to the USA from Mexico. Recent research suggests a small subset of these butterflies may be aiming for summer breeding grounds not in the traditional Corn Belt and Canada, but in South Florida and Caribbean locations. This same research suggests Gulf Coast states may see fall migrating butterflies southbound to both Mexico and South Florida.

Whatever their spring and fall destinations, the Oe protozoan parasite is known to be a debilitating and sometimes lethal disease endangering monarchs. Oe is especially rampant in warm winter locations where non-native milkweed is abundant. Oe infects caterpillars that eat spores on milkweed leaves. Milkweed leaves accumulate spores environmentally and especially from spore-carrying females during egg laying. From a variety of sources, specific protocols for controlling Oe by managing milkweed are available and being used in locations such as New Orleans, where Oe infection incidence in the fall has been measures at 90-100%.

In Pass Christian, Long Beach, Ocean Springs, and D’Iberville, concerned citizens are creating habitats to support butterflies including migratory monarchs. Many of these initiatives lack the component of procedures for detecting Oe and milkweed management. Education followed by appropriate action is needed.


Project Goals:

1. Train key individuals how to sample for Oe presence.

2. Determine current levels of Oe at a variety of Gulf Coast locations.

3. Educate interested public Oe and milkweed management.


Project Design:

1. Use Project Monarch Health materials to sample for Oe presence.

2. Locate new and established milkweed habitats.

3. Sample wild monarch butterflies once a week at designated consistent time and location for two 8-week periods corresponding to spring and fall migration windows. (April-mid-May and Mid-October-November)

4. Read Oe samples locally before sending to Project Monarch Health.

5. Share and publish results.

6. A separate protocol will be available for experienced captive breeder volunteers.

Website: Presentation Video