Not only the butterflies: managing ants on road verges to benefit Phengaris (Maculinea) butterflies

I. Wynhoff, R. van Gestel, C. van Swaay, F. van Langevelde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Obligate myrmecophilic butterfly species, such as Phengaris (Maculinea) teleius and P. nausithous, have narrow habitat requirements. Living as a caterpillar in the nests of the ant species Myrmica scabrinodis and M. rubra, respectively, they can only survive on sites with both host ants and the host plant Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis. After having been reintroduced into a nature reserve in the Netherlands in 1990, both butterfly species expanded their distribution to linear landscape elements such as road verges and ditch edges outside this reserve. As additional habitat of both butterfly species, vegetation management of these landscape elements became important. Our results show that a management beneficial for Phengaris butterflies should aim to increase the nest density of Myrmica species, at the same time reducing the density of nests of the competitor Lasius niger or at least keeping them at a low density. Unfavourable grassland management under which L. niger thrives, includes not mowing or flail-cutting the grass, or depositing dredgings along the side of the ditch. Management favourable for the two Myrmica species differs, demanding some flexibility if both species are to benefit. M. scabrinodis is best supported with early mowing of the road verge vegetation or late mowing in the nature reserve, both of which result in an open vegetation and warm microclimate. In contrast, the nest sites of M. rubra should be left undisturbed during the summer, and mown in late autumn. Mowing of butterfly habitat should be avoided between mid-June and mid-September as this would remove the flowerheads of the Sanguisorba plants, on which the butterflies lay their eggs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-206
JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • large blue
  • myrmica-scabrinodis
  • species richness
  • host-ants
  • habitat
  • restoration
  • oviposition
  • populations
  • grasslands
  • diversity


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