Eur. J. Entomol. 109 (3): 457-461, 2012 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2012.058

Life cycle and growth pattern of the endangered myrmecophilous Microdon myrmicae (Diptera: Syrphidae)

Magdalena WITEK1, Sara CANTERINO2, Emilio BALLETTO1, Simona BONELLI1
1 University of Turin, Department of Biology, Life Sciences and Systems Biology, Via Accademia Albertina 13, 10126 Turin, Italy; e-mails: mawitus@yahoo.co.uk, emilio.belletto@unito.it, simona.bonelli@unito.it
2 University of Turin, Department of Arboriculture and Pomology, Via Leonardo da Vinci 44, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy; e-mail: sara.canterino@unito.it

In Europe there are only a few species of the syrphid fly Microdon, which live in the nests of various genera of ants. For most of these rare flies, details of their biology, larval behaviour and relationships with their hosts are still not yet well known. In this paper we present data on the life cycle, feeding behaviour and growth pattern of Microdon myrmicae, a social parasite of Myrmica ants and compare it with two species of Maculinea butterflies similarly parasitizing Myrmica ant colonies. M. myrmicae has three larval instars and overwinters as a third instar. Eggs and 1st instar larvae are ignored by ants, which indicate that they are "chemically insignificant". 2nd and 3rd instar larvae feed on small ant brood. M.myrmicae larvae grow rapidly from May to July and later in the year the host colony only serves as shelter for overwintering. Like Maculinea alcon, larvae of M. myrmicae are numerous in Myrmica nests and more numerous than those of Maculinea teleius. Since the larvae of Microdon feed on an abundance of young ant brood, they experience low level of scramble competition and although many may develop in an ant's nest they have probably little effect on host colony fitness.

Keywords: Syrphidae, hoverflies, Microdon myrmicae, ants, Myrmica, Maculinea, social parasites, larval ecology, polymorphic growth

Received: November 18, 2011; Accepted: February 24, 2012; Published: July 2, 2012

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