Resource use of specialist butterflies in agricultural landscapes: conservation lessons from the butterfly Phengaris (Maculinea) nausithous

S.H.D.R. Jansen, M. Holmgren, F. van Langevelde, I. Wynhoff

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Most of the European grassland butterfly species are dependent on species rich grasslands shaped by low intensity farming. Conservation of these specialist species in agricultural landscapes relies on knowledge of their essential resources and the spatial distribution of these resources. In The Netherlands, the dusky large blue Phengaris (Maculinea) nausithous butterflies were extinct until their reintroduction in 1990. In addition, a spontaneous recolonization of road verges in an agricultural landscape occurred in 2001 in the southern part of The Netherlands. We analyzed the use of the essential resources, both host plants and host ants, of the latter population during the summers of 2003 and 2005. First we tested whether the distribution of the butterflies during several years could be explained by both the presence of host plants as well as host ants, as we expected that the resource that limits the distribution of this species can differ between locations and over time. We found that oviposition site selection was related to the most abundant resource. While in 2003, site selection was best explained by the presence of the host ant Myrmica scabrinodis, in 2005 it was more strongly related to flowerhead availability of the host plant. We secondly compared the net displacement of individuals between the road verge population and the reintroduced population in the Moerputten meadows, since we expected that movement of individuals depends on the structure of their habitat. On the road verges, butterflies moved significantly shorter distances than on meadows, which limits the butterflies in finding their essential resources. Finally we analyzed the availability of the two essential resources in the surroundings of the road verge population. Given the short net displacement distances and the adverse landscape features for long-distance dispersal, this landscape analysis suggests that the Phengaris population at the Posterholt site is trapped on the recently recolonized road verges. These results highlight the importance of assessing the availability of essential resources across different years and locations relative to the movement of the butterflies, and the necessity to careful manage these resources for the conservation of specialist species in agricultural landscapes, such as this butterfly species
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-930
JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • large blue butterflies
  • host-ant specificity
  • calcareous grasslands
  • european butterflies
  • land-use
  • oviposition
  • lepidoptera
  • habitat
  • lycaenidae
  • teleius

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