Contest competition among Maculinea rebeli butterfly larvae in ant nests

  • Published source details Thomas J.A., Elmes G.W. & Wardlaw J.C. (1993) Contest competition among Maculinea rebeli butterfly larvae in ant nests. Ecological Entomology, 18, 73-76.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Rear declining species in captivity

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation
  1. Rear declining species in captivity

    A replicated, controlled study (years not given) in a laboratory in Spain (Thomas et al. 1993) found that mountain Alcon blue Maculinea rebeli caterpillars reared in ant Myrmica rubra nests at low density had higher survival rates than caterpillars reared at higher densities. The survival of mountain Alcon blue caterpillars reared at low density (five caterpillars/nest: 18 of 20 caterpillars survived) was higher than for caterpillars reared at higher densities (10 caterpillars/nest: 29/40 survived; 25 caterpillars/nest: 22/100 survived). At higher densities, more caterpillars survived in ant nests founded from a colony containing winged females (10: 19/20 survived; 25: 17/50 survived) than from a colony without winged females (10: 10/20 survived: 25: 5/50 survived), but surviving individuals were lighter in colonies with winged females (22–27 mg) than without them (37–50 mg). Caterpillars reared at low density weighed 39–46 mg. Two Myrmica rubra nests in the Pyrenees were excavated and used to establish 12 colonies, each containing 50 workers and 10 ant larvae. Colonies were kept in “Brian” nests with abundant food (no further details provided). When excavated, one nest contained a large number of winged females while the other contained none. In August, on the evening of their final moult, 160 mountain Alcon blue caterpillars were collected from the same site, and introduced to the ant colonies at three densities: five, 10 and 25 caterpillars/colony. From October–March, nests were overwintered in a cool room, after which caterpillars grew for another eight weeks until pupation. The survival and weights of caterpillars were recorded before pupation.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

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