Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Butterflies get a hand from citizen scientists

Satterfield is recruiting “citizen scientists” — ordinary people with an interest in collecting scientific information — for her study monitoring monarch butterflies. In particular she’s looking at a monarch parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or Oe for short.

It’s a microscopic, single-celled organism first discovered in monarchs and queen butterflies in the 1960s. It’s harmless to humans and other animals, but it’s tough on these orange and black beauties.

Infected females transmit the parasite to the milkweed plants where they lay their eggs. When caterpillars emerge, they unwittingly eat the spores. Sometimes they have trouble developing properly. Sometimes they survive to adulthood with the infection, but are still weakened.

“We know they can’t fly as well, as fast or as far as healthy monarchs,” Satterfield said.

Savannah Morning News
21 Apr 2013
M Landers

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