Eur. J. Entomol. 105 (4): 649-657, 2008 | 10.14411/eje.2008.089

Resources for British butterflies (Lepidoptera: Hesperioidea, Papilionoidea). The alien consumer component and its significance for butterfly habitats

Peter B. HARDY1, Roger L.H. DENNIS*,2
1 81 Winstanley Road, Sale M33 2AT, UK
2 NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 2LS, U.K. and Institute for Environment, Sustainability and Regeneration, Mellor Building, Staffordshire University, College Road, Stoke on Trent, ST4 2DE, UK

With climatic warming there is an expectation that phytophagous insects will increasingly use alien (non native) plants as nectar sources and larval host plants. Alien plant use is investigated in British butterflies. Butterflies are considered to be larval host plant specialists relative to their use of nectar plants. Supporting this view, use of alien plants as nectar sources (50.1%, 27 novel plant families) is almost twice that of their use as larval host plants (21.6%; three novel plant families). Some 80% of the variation in percent alien nectar plant use is accounted against 30% of that for percent alien host plant use. The key variable accounting for alien plant use is butterfly mobility. Other prominent variables that facilitate access to alien nectar plants are southern distributions, longer adult life span, host plants in garden biotopes. A different set of variables additionally account for alien host plant exploitation (% alien host plant use: woody host plants; number of alien host plants: polyphagy; greater abundance of native host plants in gardens). Although threatened butterfly species do not depend on alien plants, this may well reflect on specialisation in resource use accompanying habitat fragmentation and an inability to use novel resources that are becoming increasingly available. Detailed study of alien resources is advocated to assess the importance of alien plant resources for phytophagous insects.

Keywords: Lepidoptera, biotope, distributions, habitat, gardens, geographical range, introductions, migration

Received: March 26, 2008; Accepted: May 5, 2008; Published: October 24, 2008

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