Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 1033–1045 | Cite as

The importance of resource distribution: spatial co-occurrence of host plants and host ants coincides with increased egg densities of the Dusky Large Blue Maculinea nausithous (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)

  • Christian Kempe
  • Piotr Nowicki
  • Alexander Harpke
  • Oliver Schweiger
  • Josef Settele


The occurrence of the Dusky Large Blue Butterfly (Maculinea nausithous) critically depends on the availability of two key resources: the Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) as primary nectar source for adults, for egg laying and early larval development, and the host ant Myrmica rubra as the food of late instar larvae. Thus, their distributions are key parameters shaping habitat suitability, and we expected that overlapping of both resources would have a strong impact on the size of local M. nausithous populations. Their egg density may be affected (a) by the fraction of host plants per site located within My. rubra activity ranges at the patch scale, or (b) by the availability of host plants with host ants in close range at the local scale, due to the potential ability of butterfly females to detect their host ants. To test the above hypothesis, we recorded spatial distribution patterns of host plants and host ants on 29 study sites in south-western Germany and related them to egg density data of M. nausithous. We found a positive relationship between co-occurence of host plant and host ant and M. nausithous egg density at the patch scale, whereas no correlation was found at the local scale. Thus, focal populations are strongly limited by the abundance of host plants, covered with My. rubra activity, as ant-mediated oviposition could not be proved. Our results underline the importance of resource distribution; the understanding of its impacts may provide useful insights into how M. nausithous habitats can be managed in order increase their carrying capacity.


Lycaenidae Myrmica Sanguisorba Oviposition Habitat management 



We are grateful to Jens Dauber, who provided support in ant identification, to Martin Musche, Tamila Neumann and Toni Kasiske, who helped in lab analysis. We thank the authorities in Rhineland-Palatinate (Struktur-und Genehmigungsdirektion Süd, Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Untere Naturschutzbehörden of the Kreisverwaltungen Bad Dürkheim, Germersheim, Rhein-Pfalz-Kreis, Südliche Weinstraße and of the Stadtverwaltungen Landau in der Pfalz and Neustadt an der Weinstraße) as well as the landowners and farmers for their cooperation at the study sites. Special thanks to Christian Weisser for providing accommodation and lots of support during the field work period.


The project was funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) and the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). PN was supported by the Polish National Science Centre Grant DEC-2013/11/B/NZ8/00912.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)Department of Community EcologyHalleGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental SciencesJagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland
  3. 3.iDiv, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity ResearchHalle-Jena-LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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