Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 511–517 | Cite as

Myrmica host-ants limit the density of the ant-predatory large blue Maculinea nausithous

  • Christian AntonEmail author
  • Martin Musche
  • Vladimir Hula
  • Josef Settele
Original Paper


Butterflies of the highly endangered genus Maculinea are parasites of red Myrmica ants. Prior to the adoption by Myrmica worker ants Maculinea caterpillars feed on a specific host plant. This field study aims to answer the question whether the density and distribution of the host plant Sanguisorba officinalis or the density of the host ant M. rubra limit the density of M. nausithous egg, larval and adult stage. We found that the density of M. nausithous egg stage and adult stage increased with the density of the host ant. The density of M. nausithous caterpillars was not associated with ant density or plant density. This study suggests that the density of M. nausithous is limited by the density of the host ant M. rubra. We conclude that habitat management for M. nausithous should focus on the maintenance of habitats that hold both resources, but that enable high densities of M. rubra. In addition, it is discussed why high densities of host ants might be more important in predatory than in cuckoo-feeding Maculinea.


Habitat conservation Myrmica rubra Spatial density-dependence 



We are grateful to Holger Loritz who provided information on Maculinea -inhabited sites and who helped on two sites in the field. Many thanks to Hannelore Jany, Maria Filowa, Daniela Faust and Dana Weinhold for help in the lab, to the authorities in Rhineland-Palatinate (Struktur- und Genehmigungsdirektion Süd, Neustadt an der Weinstraße) for the permission to work on M. nausithous, and to Karsten Schönrogge and Oliver Boßdorf for comments on an early version of the manuscript. Research has been funded by the EC within the RTD project “MacMan” (EVK2-CT-2001-00126).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Anton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin Musche
    • 1
  • Vladimir Hula
    • 2
  • Josef Settele
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Community EcologyHelmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZHalleGermany
  2. 2.Mendel University of Agriculture and Forestry BrnoBrnoCzech Republic

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