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Monarch larvae gain protection from some of their potential
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Monarch larvae gain protection from some of their potential predators

June 1, 2010
Monarch larvae gain protection from some of their potential predators by storing cardenolides, toxins found in their milkweed host plants. [One of seven related images. See Next Image.]

More About this Image: As part of her Natoinal Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Monarch Butterfly Larval Monitoring Project, Dr. Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota is implementing a nationwide citizen science project focused on the lifecycle of monarch butterflies. Dr. Oberhauser and other researchers from the university are training naturalists and environmental educators throughout the United States at 11 host sites. Participants in the first round of training will then train volunteer monitors. The target audience for volunteers is adult/child teams who will monitor a field or patch of milkweed plants--the food plant of monarch caterpillars--for the entire summer. They will count eggs and caterpillars also known as larvae, with the entire group surveying a grand total of more than 25,000 milkweed plants each week.

The project Web site shows temporal and spatial data and will provide interpretations of volunteer observations. List servers support the project and augment a monthly newsletter and the Web site. In addition, mini exhibits have been created to highlight the project at participating nature centers. These exhibits focus on monarch and insect ecology and conservation, as well as local and population-wide monitoring efforts. It is estimated that 90-150 nature centers will participate in the regional training and they in turn will train almost 5,000 volunteers.