When dormant spores are scattered onto eggs or milkweed leaves by infected adults, monarch larvae consume the spores, and these parasites then replicate inside the larvae and pupae.” “As the days went on,” Storey explained, “this OE parasite really started to take its course.” She wasn’t ready to give up on the monarch. OE spores are deposited onto the milkweed leaf, and the newly hatched caterpillar eats the spores as it eats the leaf. Each day, empty frass (caterpillar feces) from bottom of container, replace paper towel if soiled, and add a fresh milkweed stalk. Tropical milkweed also has been linked to the transmission of Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), a protozoan parasite. Think of milkweed — all of it, not just the non-natives — as a potential vector for the monarch disease commonly known as “OE.” Just like hand rails carry the common cold virus, any milkweed can carry the protozoan spores for OE, which come from the butterflies. Ophryocystis elektroscirrha is a protozoan parasite that infects the Monarch world-wide. OE spores will be on all types of milkweed not just Tropical. It's time to talk about an uncomfortable topic for us Monarch Butterfly caretakers: The OE Parasite. Another major threat to the existence of monarchs is a protozoan parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, or OE for short. Pictured above an abdomen of a healthy monarch. The spores are dormant cells among the scales on the Monarch. Do the math.Is euthanizing worthwhile? Because people touch hand rails often, they are a good vector for the cold. Monarchs that emerge with OE often have wings which are weak and aren't properly formed along with other problems and usually die. This protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, commonly known as Oe, begins with a dormant spore, usually deposited by an infected female monarch as she lays her eggs on a milkweed. OE … Monarchs that emerge with OE often have wings which are weak and aren't properly formed along with other problems and usually die. The butterfly must be euthanized.Some butterflies that do eclose are unable to fully expand their wings for some reason and will fall to the ground or, have terribly deformed wings. What the research shows is particularly troubling for the monarch migration that passes through Texas gardens to feed and breed. OE begins as a spore found on a butterfly's scales. While the mama is fluttering about ovipositing (laying eggs) on the Milkweed, she is also scattering the OE spores onto the the leaves of the plants. *Click on pictures if you want to see details*, *click on the pupa to see the spots up close. Click here for more details from the scientists. OE is spread from spores on the milkweed to pupa, then butterfly and egg. Tropical milkweed might pose fewer problems in the northern monarch breeding range because it dies back naturally when it freezes.” I also read to cut back after it stops flowering. The spores can then be scattered on the eggs that are laid or onto the leaves of the milkweed plant. Milkweed hosts a protozoan parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). Look at the areas that are marked by the white arrows. Photo by Monika Maeckle. Until then, consider a milkweed native to your region which will not require extra water, and will cycle according to the climate (see below for ideas), or cut back your tropical milkweed in the winter months to mitigate build-up of OE spores and stop monarch breeding during fall migration. Most of these spores … OE is spread vertically when spores are transferred onto eggs during oviposition, and environmentally if spores are scattered onto milkweed leaves which are eaten by larvae (McLaughlin and Myers, 1970; Altizer and Oberhauser, 1999). The abdomen even looks shrunken in comparison to the first butterfly's, which is plump and well-shaped.This Monarch, when tested, had a LOT of OE spores and had to be euthanized.Some may think, "I wouldn't kill a butterfly just because it had some spores on it!" An uninfected caterpillar could also eat spores on milkweed that were left by an infected butterfly. the Red and Black bug: Is it a Milkweed Bug? Sometimes a butterfly may eclose but its wings will not open up; maybe one wing is stuck in the chrysalis or the wings are simply shriveled. Infected adult monarchs harbor thousands or millions of microscopic OE spores on the outside of their bodies. There is no way that the OE spores can be spread to adult monarchs nectaring on tropical milkweed flowers. In native milkweeds, this does not happen because the plants die back at the end of the summer, thus eliminating the OE spores. microscopic OE spores on the outside of their bodies. OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) is a protozoan parasite that infects butterflies in the Danaus species group, those that host on milkweed. OE begins as a spore found on a butterfly's scales. OH NO! Environmental transmission occurs when caterpillars encounter OE spores shed by unrelated adult monarchs onto milkweed leaves where the caterpillars feed. When the caterpillars hatch and begin to eat, they consume the Oe spores along with the leaf. This is mainly due to year round availability of milkweed, the Monarch’s host plant and their caterpillars food source. The chrysalis can also show signs of being infected with uneven darker spots showing through the … For example, take a look at this chrysalis. Monarchs that have been parasitized with OE have been shown to live a shorter lifespan, have greater difficulty with flying longer distances, and pass the spores to their offspring. (A. curassavica). OE is infective on the surface of all milkweeds)) Diabrotica beetle on tropical milkweed (Asclepias cuassavica) in Oaxaca, Mexico It is unclear whether this is also a problem with tropical milkweed planted in the northeastern USA and Canada, in September, for example, when the southern migration is just beginning. Step 3: Monitor caterpillars. Both males and females are effected but it is the female that will transfer the spores to her offspring directly. Generally, these butterflies have shorter life spans and have difficulty flying. This infected caterpillar becomes an unhealthy adult, and the cycle continues until the milkweed … There has been much to do about it lately thanks to a study that came out about the plant and its connection to the OE spore that infects and kills Monarchs. Infected monarchs are weakened by OE and don’t live as long, and an OE-infected monarch that tries to migrate will probably … It could be born with it if its parent was infected or a butterfly could pick up a spore on milkweed that was scattered by another infected butterfly. This condition can be quite debilitating and it is important to make sure that any supplier of larval monarchs tests each adult monarch for OE Infected plants in Texas are especially harmful because they sit in the gateway for the spring and fall monarch migrations. This could create an unhealthy hotbed of lingering OE spores for caterpillars and butterflies that remain in the local area. The white is definitely not a nice, long, thick stripe but is more mottled in colour. If you have questions or just want to drop me a line, that's fine, too. Common Milkweed Diseases Leaf Spot (fungus) Leaf spots on milkweed plants are usually red, brown, or black. Monarchs with severe OE infections can fail to emerge successfully from their pupal stage, either because they Pruning will stimulate growth, help eliminate OE spores, and create bushier branches with more flowers. Infected imagines (adults) eclose covered with the OE spores and the damage has been completed as once a butterfly has been infected, sadly, there is nothing that can be done.Can you tell early on if a Monarch has been parasitized? Scientific research suggests that its problems, namely its link to the spread of the Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) disease, far out-weigh its virtues. Dara Satterfield  recommends, “that habitat restoration for monarchs focus on native species of milkweed, which are synchronized with the monarch’s natural migratory cycle and do not enable the year-round breeding that can lead to high parasitism rates.”. My Milkweed Leaves look strange…what's wrong with them? If you have potting soil and containers available, simply place the stems directly into the potting soil. It seemed that a solution was in hand to help restore milkweed habitat for the Eastern migratory monarch population. The butterfly looks normal but is so infected with OE that it spreads the parasites as it flies through your Milkweed, dropping the spores as it nectars OR passes the spores along to its offspring. The monarch parasite protozoan OE is spread when an infected female lays her eggs. Okay, think if it was a FEMALE, she mates, and starts ovipositing several hundred eggs onto your plants. The common milkweed dies to the ground and comes up every year. This is a great place for me to remind folks: do NOT plant tropical milkweed (Asclelpias curasssavica) unless you live in the tropics. They don’t jump onto adult butterflies. I wash my milkweed … (See links to studies at the end of this blog.). Most butterflies with OE … Most butterflies with OE … Its life cycle starts as a microscopic spore that breaks open when ingested by a caterpillar. Replace tropical milkweed with native species. It is more prevalent in the fall. Recent studies corroborate earlier studies and tighten the link between tropical milkweed and an increase of OE. Within the caterpillar, it grows and multiplies. These tiny spores are sandwiched in between the scales that cover a butterfly’s body, as indicated by the green arrow in the picture above. This means infected plants persist. This Monarch tested clear and free of OE.Now, look closely at these next two pictures.What can you see in the black and white markings on the abdomen of this Monarch? Other Monarch larvae (caterpillars), upon hatching, begin to eat the leaves that have been 'dusted' with the spores. Re-cut the milkweed every few weeks as leaves re-sprout. It significantly increases the rate monarchs are infected by the debilitating OE protozoan pathogen. Spores on milkweed don’t move to new buds and shoots. It’s spread through microscopic spores coming off the wings and bodies of adult butterflies. This is because the OE spores tend to build up on the plants since the plants remain in leaf so long. They spread from adult butterflies to caterpillars by being shed near or on eggs and being ingested by the caterpillars. And a lot I didn’t know! spores are out there, but there are ways to keep the number of spores on your plants down. This ensures that we are sampling the natural level of OE present on milkweed plants exposed to the open environment. The chrysalis can also show signs of being infected with uneven darker spots showing through the … OE is a protozoan parasite that infects butterflies that host on milkweed. Instead, plant milkweed that is native to your area. I wash my milkweed … Once the butterflies are infected, they do not recover. It is then transferred to the surface of the egg or milkweed during oviposition, and begins a new cycle when it is eaten by the emerging larva. The butterfly looks normal but is so infected with OE that it spreads the parasites as it flies through your Milkweed, dropping the spores as it nectars OR passes the spores along to its offspring. Because people touch hand rails often, they are a good vector for the cold. That may encourage female monarchs to migrate and prevent a deadly build-up of OE spores on the plants. some of the adorable clip art found on this website is used with the express written permission of. Put only one caterpillar in each container. The picture was taken against a wooden surface to provide a clearer picture. As winters get warmer, Asclepias curassavica – the only milkweed species commercially available – is less likely to die.Some scientists hypothesize that A. curassavica entices Monarchs to forego migration and winter in the U.S. These protozoa multiply inside the caterpillar and can cause weakness, disfigurement, and an untimely death. When the caterpillars hatch and begin to eat, they consume the Oe spores along with the leaf. Monarchs who stay in the southern states for the winter are five to nine times more likely to be infected with OE than migrating butterflies. Guess what…this butterfly eclosed with Oe. In these cases, we recommend that if a volunteer feels confident that the monarch was infected due to natural events, e.g. Microscopic spores on the bodies of infected caterpillars are spread This is a great place for me to remind folks: do NOT plant tropical milkweed (Asclelpias curasssavica) unless you live in the tropics. Burpee Seeds (search: Asclepias for seeds). Infected female monarchs can infect their own offspring through spores shed onto their eggs, a process known as vertical transmission. No amount of human intervention is going to help. Its life cycle starts as a microscopic spore that breaks open when ingested by a caterpillar. Monarchs like to Overwinter in California. If a milkweed plant is eaten down, clean it up and set it aside to recover, while continuing to rinse and replace the top inch of soil. I think what Peggy may be referring to is the latest news that got blown out of proportion about Tropical Milkweed. Volunteers that handle infected adults might accidentally transfer OE spores to milkweed and rearing containers. If the markings on the abdomen are clear and distinct, there is a fairly good chance the butterfly has not been infected. Learn more about native milkweed species at these resources: Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database, PDF of Identification of Milkweed in Texas, by Texas Parks & Wildlife. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! disease, and will scatter the dormant spores onto Milkweed leaves as they fly around, and can scatter spores onto a female … Tracking the spring monarch migration starts on February 14. Research by Karen Oberhauser, Dara Satterfield, and others has and continues to demonstrate that OE in monarchs increases where tropical milkweed flourishes. Here are some recommended species from Dr. Jaret Daniels: Aquatic Milkweed (Asclepias perennis) The fungus spores that cause leaf spot are airborne or waterborne. Replace the top inch of your soil beneath the plants. (A. curassavica). Because a parasite depends on its host for its own life, OE rarely kills the caterpillar. But, it is NOT normal! Others may even be smaller in size than healthy Monarchs. But the disease affects the development of the adult butterfly while pupating, and adults emerge weak and often with crippled wings. The common milkweed dies to the ground and comes up every year. Severe infections can defoliate the plant. Spray spores away– spray milkweed plants and the surrounding soil with a hydrogen peroxide solution to kill fungus spores: Hydrogen Peroxide Mix for Sick or Fungusy Plants Find a Garden Sprayer for your Hydrogen Peroxide Mix Hydrogen peroxide also … It parasitizes the Monarch and Queen butterflies only and the spores can be found in the cuticles between the scales. “You’re right that it’s less about the plant itself and more about the seasonality of the plant,” wrote Satterfield via email. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Possibly more important is the effect of milder winters. When OE spores infect milkweed leaves, they can be carried on the bodies of adult butterflies, which spread the infection to other butterflies. Now the fact that it stays growing for longer in the southern region means it may in fact have more OE spores because of that is not the same as saying the tropical milkweed is infected with the living parasite. It multiplies within the larva, and during the last few days of the pupal stage produces new spores that are on butterfly's scales when it emerges. Given a non-stop supply of milkweed, interference with normal migratory behavior produces populations of monarchs that overwinter in Texas and Florida instead of completing their migration to the oyamel fir tree forests of central Mexico. Mother Nature on the case: Milkweed beetles defoliated the Milkweed Patch last spring, cleaning out OE spores in the process. While many monarchs may carry OE as spores attached to its wings and thorax, the size of the spore-carrying population and the heavy level of spores within that population in the Gulf Coast region—especially Texas and Florida—is cause for alarm. OE is a protozoan parasite that infects butterflies that host on milkweed. I think what Peggy may be referring to is the latest news that got blown out of proportion about Tropical Milkweed. Then research began to emerge that showed an increase in monarch disease caused by OE was linked to tropical milkweed grown in the southern states. OE spores are dormant cells found on the outside of infected monarchs. OE does not grow or reproduce on the adults. Any plant. It's time to talk about an uncomfortable topic for us Monarch Butterfly caretakers: The OE Parasite. Is it a Hover Fly or Syrphid? Cut tropical milkweed plants to within four to six inches of the ground each October. the Tachinid Fly. When dormant spores are scattered onto eggs or milkweed leaves by infected adults, monarch larvae consume the spores, and these parasites then replicate inside the larvae and pupae. It didn’t take long to discover that aside from being very easy to grow, monarch butterflies love this variety of milkweed. Gardeners should consider taking one of two actions. Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) OE is a protozoan parasite that caterpillars ingest on milkweed. Gardening to help conserve monarchs requires an understanding of the risks associated with tropical milkweed as well as the steps to take to minimize its ill effects. In the US, Monarch (Danaus plexippus), Queen (Danaus gilippus), and Soldier (Danaus eresimus) butterflies are affected by OE. This is just one example of what the parasite can do. OE is spread from spores on the milkweed to pupa, then butterfly and egg. Think, though, what would happen if an infected butterfly was permitted to flutter about YOUR garden. You will receive a confirmation email from WordPress. The theory of OE spores building up over the season, possibly infecting migrating Monarchs would seem to hold true for other milkweeds available late in the year, not just Tropical milkweed. Spores can also be scattered onto milkweed from butterflies laying eggs or feeding on nectar and then consumed by caterpillars as they eat foliage. By definition, gardens are tended. Disturbance during the growing season could conceivably increase or decrease the risk of OE transmission: if spores have accumulated on older milkweed … The greatest concentration of spores usually occurs on the abdomen. The eclosing butterfly was unable to come out of the chrysalis completely and showed signs of Oe when tested under the stereoscope. Tropical milkweed encourages them to linger in the southern states and continue breeding and laying eggs, “trapping” them here where they cannot survive temperatures that drop toward the freezing mark. Contrary to popular opinion, OE isn’t often fatal. Beautiful pictures! 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