, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 209-222

The influence of ants on host plant selection by Jalmenus evagoras, a myrmecophilous lycaenid butterfly

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Summary

(1) Females of the myrmecophilous lycaenid butterfly, Jalmenus evagoras are far more likely to lay eggs on plants that contain their attendant ants, Iridomyrmex sp. 25 than on plants without ants, although the clutch sizes of individual egg masses laid in either situation is the same. (2) Ovipositing females respond to the presence or absence of ants before they alight on a potential food plant. Once they have landed, they are equally likely to ley eggs whether or not they encounter ants. (3) Ovipositing females prefer to lay eggs on plants that contain ant tended homopterans than on plants that contain only a few foraging ants. The presence of ant tended homopterans can act as a strong stimulus to induce females to lay eggs on plant species that differ from their original host species. (4) Ant dependent oviposition behavior has been described or suggested in 46 species of lycaenid and one riodinid. In general, the more dependent a species is upon ants for either food or protection, the more likely it is to use ants as cues in oviposition. Prominent characteristics of lycaenids that have ant dependent oviposition are described and discussed. (5) Myrmecophilous lycaenids that may use ants as cues in oviposition feed on a significantly wider range of plants than non-myrmecophilous lycaenids. Possible reasons for this pattern and its ecological significance are discussed.