Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 141–149 | Cite as

Multiple host-ant use by the predatory social parasite Phengaris (=Maculinea) arion (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae)

  • Marcin Sielezniew
  • Izabela Dziekańska
  • Anna M. Stankiewicz-Fiedurek
Original Paper


Phengaris (=Maculinea) arion is an endangered social parasite of Myrmica ants, and for a very long time was considered as specific to Myrmica sabuleti. Previous studies carried out in Poland suggested some discrepancies within this assumption, and therefore a much more intensive survey was undertaken. The host ant use of P. arion was studied at five sites in different types of biotopes in Poland, i.e. xerothermal grasslands where Thymus pulegioides was used as a larval food plant by the butterfly, and more or less sandy biotopes with Thymus serpyllum. Altogether nine Myrmica species were recorded, and considerable variation in species composition and density of nests was recorded. At four localities M. sabuleti proved to be the most common ant. A total of 529 Myrmica nests were examined, and only 20 of them contained larvae and pupae of P. arion. Host ants belonged to five different species, i.e. M. sabuleti, Myrmica scabrinodis, Myrmica schencki, Myrmica lobicornis and Myrmica hellenica. Only at one site (NE Poland) was a significant heterogeneity in parasitation rates among Myrmica species detected. M. lobicornis was the most often infested ant there, which may suggest local specialisation of the butterfly. Overall low parasitism rates may explain the vulnerability of P. arion in Central Europe but further studies are also necessary.


Maculinea arion Endangered species Host specificity Myrmecophily Myrmica 



We are grateful to Paweł Borkowski, Cezary Bystrowski, Krzysztof Frąckiel, Adam Górnicki, Tadeusz Janik and Krzysztof Pałka for the precise location of study sites and/or for logistic help during field studies. Sarah Łuczaj made linguistic improvements on the draft of the manuscript. We also thank our two referees for their valuable comments on the manuscript. The Polish Minister of the Environment and the Director of the Biebrza National Park issued the relevant permissions for our studies. This work was supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (grant no 2 P04G 024 30).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcin Sielezniew
    • 1
  • Izabela Dziekańska
    • 2
  • Anna M. Stankiewicz-Fiedurek
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Institute of BiologyUniversity of BialystokBiałystokPoland
  2. 2.Association for Butterfly Conservation (TOM)WarszawaPoland
  3. 3.Laboratory of Social and Myrmecophilous Insects, Museum and Institute of ZoologyPolish Academy of SciencesWarszawaPoland

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