, Volume 91, Issue 3, pp 439-446

The distribution and density of a lycaenid butterfly in relation to Lasius ants

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Larvae and pupae of lycaenid butteflies are often associated with ants: this is usually a mutualism in which ants guard the lycaenids from natural enemies, and the lycaenid larvae and pupae provide sugars and amino acids for the ants. A possible consequence of the interaction is spatially correlated ant and lycaenid distributions, but the phenomenon is poorly documented. We examined the lycaenid Plebejus argus, which is tended by Lasius ants. Within habitat patches, P. argus eggs, larvae and pupae were all spatially associated with Lasius. On a larger scale, the densities of butterflies in different habitat patches and populations, and whether the butterfly was present or not, were correlated with Lasius ant densities. The association of P. argus with Lasius ants is consistent among populations, and occurs at several spatial scales. Other aspects of the ecology of P. argus are more variable.