The occurrence and effect of a protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (Neogregarinida: Ophryocystidae) on overwintering monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus (Lepidoptera: Danaidae) from two California winter sites


Dr Kingston L. H. Leong, Biological Sciences, Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, U.S.A.



  • 1Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, from two overwintering populations, were found to have Ophryocystis elektroscirrha spores on their scales at rates between 53% and 68%. The frequency of butterflies with O.elektroscirrha spores remained about the same between sites and throughout the winter.
  • 2The spores, recovered from all parts of the body of the butterfly, were most numerous on the abdomen, particularly near the posterior third.
  • 3Butterflies with spores survived as long as those without detectable spores at 10.1°C ±0.4 SE and 78.3% r.h. ±0.6SE. Insects with spores held at 19.4°C ±0.4SE and 44.9% r.h. ±1.5SE showed a significantly higher rate of moisture loss and survived a shorter period than monarch butterflies without detectable spores.