Phengaris (Maculinea) teleius butterflies select host plants close to Myrmica ants for oviposition, but P. nausithous do not

Irma Wynhoff*, Frank van Langevelde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Many lycaenid butterfly species have interactions with ants, with 12% obligatorily depending on two sequential sources of larval food, namely host plants and host ants. When host plants are abundant but the density of host ant nests is relatively low, most host plants have no host ant nest in their vicinity and are thus unsuitable for larval survival. Obligatorily myrmecophilous female butterflies, whose caterpillars feed on ant larvae, would have a comparative advantage if they deposit eggs on host plants in the proximity of a host ant nest. However, this ant-mediated oviposition has been hotly debated. In an open-air insectory experiment, we tested whether oviposition is ant-mediated or not for two obligatory myrmecophilous butterfly species, Phengaris (Maculinea) nausithous Bergsträsser and Phengaris teleius Bergsträsser (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae). Female butterflies could select host plants close to either no ant nest or a nest of one of the two Myrmica species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) that are thought to be their host ant. Our results support ant-mediated oviposition in P. teleius, but also indicate that there is no preference for either of the Myrmica species. More eggs were deposited and more caterpillars were found on long flowerheads close to Myrmica ant nests than on those without nests. Our findings suggest that ant presence is more important than flowerhead phenology for females of P. teleius. In contrast, P. nausithous females were not attracted by ants but preferred long flowerheads with a low percentage of green coloration. With these findings, this study contributes to better understanding of the habitat requirements of two highly specialized butterfly species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-18
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • ant-mediated oviposition
  • Formicidae
  • host–parasite relation
  • Hymenoptera
  • Lepidoptera
  • Lycaenidae
  • myrmecophily
  • oviposition site choice


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