Butterfly Larvae Disease Screening Co-op

“It is something that we have long needed.”
-Dr. Lincoln Brower


Dr. Brower has studied butterflies for over 50 years and has done tremendous research on many areas of butterflies.

Basic diagnostic screening for any butterfly breeders’ larvae is now available at a reduced cost. Mississippi State University and the Association for Butterflies are working together to make this screening service more affordable for all butterfly breeders.

Nosema in Lepidoptera, photo by Amanda Lawrence, MSU

Nosema (fungus) in Lepidoptera, photo by Amanda Lawrence, MSU


“My Monarch and Painted Lady butterfly stock looks and acts healthy. Are they really healthy?”

“My larvae do not look good. What is wrong?”

“Oh-oh. NOW what do I do?”


The Association for Butterflies and the Mississippi State Pathology Department teams up to bring you a fantastic screening co-op at affordable prices.

What is this screening co-op?
Farmers who are grouped together by the AFB to enable them to send larvae to be screened at an affordable price to Mississippi State. It enables a farmer to discover and address disease issues before disease causes major problems in their stock.

What disease pathogens are screened?
The larvae are screened for protozoa (for example a microsporidian such as nosema, varimorpha), occluded virus particles, and bacteria. Specifically bacteria that could cause potential issues for an insect or be insect pathogens. It is recommended that larvae be sent for regular screening once a month. Amanda Lawrence, at Mississippi State Pathology Department, will receive the larvae and screen them in the pathology lab.

Is OE (Ophryocystis electroscirrha) screened?
The short answer is not reliably. The longer answer is immature stages of OE (which is a protozoan) are very difficult to detect in larvae unless they are late in development or the insect is heavily infected. If that is the case then yes, they can be detected. If there are mature spores then yes they can be detected with this screening program. Our Clean Screen program should be used for the detection of OE in Monarch butterflies.

Are non-occluded viruses screened?
Non-occluded viruses can be screened at an additional cost.  Contact Jodi Hopper for additional information.

Why would participating in this co-op save me money when shipping is so expensive?
Screening saves a farmer money by telling the farmer if a problem is starting to show up in his/her breeding stock. If the problem is undetected until it becomes an issue, the farmer normally has to buy eggs, larvae, pupae, and/or adults to fill his/her orders. Screening can prevent that expense as well as the expense and hassle of destroying stock, cleaning up the rearing area, and starting again. Of course if the problem is environmental or chemical (insecticides for instance) Amanda will not always be able to pinpoint the problem. She will be able to tell a farmer if he/she has a disease issue with his/her stock.

What about shipping?
Shipping costs are the responsibility of each farmer.  Samples must arrive alive and before noon to the lab.

How does the butterfly disease screening co-op work?
1. A farmer signs up for the co-op with the AFB for either the 1st or 2nd week of the month.  Once you have received a confirmed ship date, make your payment for the number of larvae you will be sending HERE.

2. The farmer MUST ship larvae on the dates assigned. Amanda will have petri dishes and other necessary items ready to receive the shipment. If the larvae are shipped on any other day, the lab will not be ready to do the testing.

3. Two days later, Amanda will send an email to that farmer (NOT the AFB) sharing the results of the screening with that farmer only. If any problems are in the stock, Amanda will include that information and suggestions for the farmer. Amanda expressly asked that the AFB encourage all farmers who send in their stock for screening to email her in return if they have any questions about the reports she sends to them.

Note: Amanda Lawrence will talk to each farmer directly.  She will not contact the AFB about the results of a farmer’s individual screening shipment. The AFB schedules shipments and collects payments for screening. The AFB notifies Amanda of the schedule. Amanda prepares the lab for shipments as scheduled. Amanda will send a list of names of farmers who sent larvae and the number of larvae each week to the AFB for billing purposes. The AFB makes payments to Mississippi State, easing the time and work that Mississippi State would normally be required to do for screening.

What does this program cost?
5 larvae: $20, 10 larvae: $30, 15 larvae: $40, 20 larvae: $50; this is a monthly cost pre-paid thru the AFB.

Who is eligible for this program?
AFB members. This program is designed to help farmers individually and the industry as a whole.

For more information contact Jodi Hopper.

Once you have been pre-approved and added to a co-op, you may download the Submission Form to fill out and send in with your insects each month.