Things you will need for testing using the tape method:

Disposable gloves
Clear tape stickers
Blank index cards

 

Step 1. Put on your gloves!

Step 2. Hold the monarch firmly as shown in the picture below, using a gloved hand.  Be sure not to use your other hand to touch the butterfly because that hand will be used to hold the tape sticker and sample for spores.  It is critical that you keep your bare hand completely free of touching the butterfly throughout this process!

 

Step 3. Pick up a tape sticker using your other hand and gently place the sticky side of the piece of tape to the abdomen of the monarch. Press down so that it wraps around and sticks to the sides of the abdomen.

 

Step 4. Gently peel the tape sticker off and stick it to the index card. You will remove some scales in the process, but don't worry, it will not harm the monarch.

 

Finish by labeling the tape sample on the spore card with the identity (we use a number) of the monarch. Continue these steps until you have sampled all of your monarchs. In the end, your index cards should look something like this:

The numbers on the bottom of each sample refer to the number of the butterfly in our lab, and the numbers above refer to the parasite 'spore load' on each monarch (we use a 0-5 scaling system). Notice that one monarch from these samples was infected and was given a 5 score (heaviest infection category).

To determine if your monarchs are infected with OE, you can look at each tape sample under your microscope at 30-40X. If any monarch is infected with OE its tape sample should look something like this:

The red arrows indicate the parasite spores in this image. The big objects are the monarch scales. The spores look like tiny lemon-shaped objects, often clumped together. Under a good scope they'll have a reddish tinge. This monarch would be considered heavily infected. Keep in mind that many infections are mild so you may only see 20 spores in the entire tape sample. If you do not find any parasite spores then the monarch is clean! If you do find an infected individual, it should be isolated from your other monarchs and then destroyed. Also, change your gloves after handling any infected monarch so you will not spread the spores around your workspace.Note: If you have access to a light microscope, you can use a variation on this method by placing the tape sample on a microscope slide instead of an index card.

Step 5. Wipe down your work surface with the bleach wipes when you finish and dispose of your gloves before handling another monarch.

It's important to try and keep a clean work area when sampling the butterflies for parasites. One monarch may be infected, while another may not. Changing gloves and wiping areas with bleach wipes will prevent cross-contamination of different samples and help avoid touching a non-infected sample with infected spores from another.