Eur. J. Entomol. 110 (1): 71-80, 2013 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2013.009

Behavioural evidence for a putative oviposition-deterring pheromone in the butterfly, Phengaris (Maculinea) teleius (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)

Marcin SIELEZNIEW*,1, Anna M. STANKIEWICZ-FIEDUREK2
1 Department of Applied Entomology, Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW), Nowoursynowska 159, PL-02-776 Warszawa, Poland
2 Laboratory of Social and Myrmecophilous Insects, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 62, PL-00-679 Warszawa, Poland

Larvae of the endangered Scarce Large Blue butterfly, Phengaris (Maculinea) teleius, are initially endophytic, feeding upon developing seeds of Sanguisorba officinalis, but complete their development as social parasites preying on the brood of Myrmica ants. Females show very specific preferences, laying eggs exclusively in young flower heads of the food plant. In the present contribution we report the results of a detailed study of female behaviour at three sites differing in size and abundance of S. officinalis. Tracked individuals switched between feeding on nectar (nectaring), flight and oviposition. They fed exclusively on flowers of reddish, pink or violet colouration, favouring Viccia cracca and S. officinalis. However, females spent about one fifth of the time they were active ovipositing and laid about 20 eggs per hour. Oviposition visits to flower heads were highly stereotyped and followed a specific ritual. Examination of accepted, rejected and randomly sampled flower heads showed that females avoided those containing conspecific eggs and at a site where this was difficult due to a shortage of suitable flower heads, they tended to distribute their eggs evenly among the available flower heads. Our results indirectly indicate the existence of an oviposition-deterring pheromone (ODP) in P. teleius. This hypothetical marking ensures a more even distribution of eggs and possibly increases the chances of survival of caterpillars by reducing competition during both the phytophagous and myrmecophagous stages of development. There are few reports of butterflies producing ODPs and to our knowledge this is the first evidence of their presence in the family Lycaenidae.

Keywords: Host plant marking behaviour, host plant selection, Maculinea teleius, myrmecophily, oviposition, oviposition-deterring pheromone, Phengaris teleius, Sanguisorba officinalis, social parasite

Received: May 9, 2012; Accepted: July 2, 2012; Published: January 2, 2013

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