Eur. J. Entomol. 105 (5): 871-877, 2008 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2008.115

Host ant specificity of large blue butterflies Phengaris (Maculinea) (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) inhabiting humid grasslands in East-central Europe

Magdalena WITEK*,1, Ewa B. ŚLIWIŃSKA1, Piotr SKÓRKA2, Piotr NOWICKI1, Marta WANTUCH1, Vladimír VRABEC3, Josef SETTELE4, Michal WOYCIECHOWSKI1
1 Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Gronostajowa 7, 30-387 Kraków, Poland
2 Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Mickiewicza 33, 31-120 Kraków, Poland
3 Department of Zoology and Fishery, Czech University of Life Sciences, Kamýcká 129, CZ-165 21 Prague 6 - Suchdol, Czech Republic
4 UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany

Butterflies of the genus Phengaris have a highly specialised life cycle involving an obligatory relationship with Myrmica ants. A knowledge of the host ant specificity is essential for understanding the relationship between a particular Phengaris species and its hosts and also important for the conservation of these butterflies. Data on host ant specificity were collected in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine. Five different Myrmica species were used by P. teleius as hosts (M. scabrinodis, M. rubra, M. ruginodis, M. rugulosa and M. gallienii) and at most localities it was not possible to distinguish a primary host - i.e. several Myrmica species were parasitized to similar extents. Three populations of P. nausithous were found in Poland and Ukraine. In every case, M. rubra was its primary host, although in the Kraków region (Poland) two nests of M. scabrinodis and two of M. ruginodis were infested by this butterfly species. P. alcon in the four populations investigated in Poland and Ukraine invariably only used M. scabrinodis as a host despite the presence of other Myrmica species. These results obtained suggest lack of host specificity in P. teleius and high host specificity in P. nausithous, which mainly uses M. rubra as its host across Europe. Moreover, the three populations of P. alcon investigated seem to be highly specific and use M. scabrinodis as a host, which confirms the high local specialisation of these populations.

Keywords: Lycaenidae, host ant specificity, Phengaris, Maculinea, Myrmica, social parasitism

Received: April 22, 2008; Accepted: July 30, 2008; Published: December 30, 2008

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