Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 12, pp 2805–2821

Nutrient Composition of Larval Nectar Secretions from Three Species of Myrmecophilous Butterflies


DOI: 10.1007/s10886-005-8395-y

Cite this article as:
Daniels, H., Gottsberger, G. & Fiedler, K. J Chem Ecol (2005) 31: 2805. doi:10.1007/s10886-005-8395-y


A comparative chemical analysis of the larval nectar secretions and hemolymph from three unspecifically and facultatively ant-attended lycaenid species (Polyommatus coridon, P. icarus, and Zizeeria knysna) was performed by using high-performance liquid chromatography techniques. Sucrose was the main sugar component in all three species. In half of the samples of P. coridon, it was accompanied by glucose, whereas other sugars occurred only rarely. In P. icarus and Z. knysna, melezitose was the second-most important component, followed by fructose and glucose. Total sugar contents were 43.6 ± 14.8 g/l (mean ± SD) for P. coridon, 74.2 g/l for P. icarus, and 68.3 ± 22.6 g/l for Z. knysna. Up to 14 different identified amino acids were found in P. coridon nectar, with a total content of 9.7 ± 3.4 g/l. Leucine was always the major component (contributing 50% of overall amino acid content). Other important amino acids were tyrosine, proline, arginine, and phenylalanine. P. icarus nectar contained up to six amino acids with a total content of 1.2 g/l, dominated by tyrosine and phenylalanine. Z. knysna nectar contained alanine and proline, with only 0.3 ± 0.17 g/l total content. In the hemolymph of all species, up to 16 different amino acids occurred relatively regularly, with histidine dominating, followed by serine and proline. The amino acid pattern in hemolymph was considerably different from that of the nectar secretions. Larval diet weakly influenced P. coridon nectar sugars, and with a semisynthetic diet, a more homogeneous amino acid pattern was detected. Comparison with reports from other lycaenid species shows that secretions rich in amino acids are related to intimate, often obligate ant associations, whereas facultative, unspecific myrmecophiles rely on carbohydrates.

Key Words

Lycaenidae ants myrmecophily facultative mutualism nectar secretion sugars amino acids 

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Crop ScienceSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesAlnarpSweden
  2. 2.Department of Systematic Botany and EcologyUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  3. 3.Department of Population EcologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations