Anne Kilmer viceroy at
Sat Feb 6 07:40:39 EST 1999

butrfly at EPIX.NET wrote:
> Pierre A Plauzoles wrote:
> >
> > In a previous article, MWalker at (Mark Walker) says:
> >
> > >I don't have answers to all of your questions, as I am no expert on the life
> > >cycle of the Karner Blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis).  I have read of the
> > >relationship of the butterfly's larva with a species of ant (which feeds on
> > >larval secretions), but don't know to what extent the relationship is
> > >symbiotic.
> >
> The lycaenid larvae have a transverse oval opening on the eleventh segement
> along the dorsal line. The larva can produce a drop of sweet liquid at
> will. Ants are very fond of this and will glady serve as guardians for
> these 'meal tickets'
> Many species of ants will actually tend the larvae through the first
> three stages. Some species in India will, when it is time to proceed
> into the pupal stage, Take the larvae deeper underground so they can
> be better protected.
> The Ceylonese (Aphnaeus lohita) will acutally build shelters for the
> larvae from the leaves of Acacia and Greviilae trees. The caterpillars
> are driven out at night and then herded back to the shelters in the morning.
> The Lycaenids are also considered carnivorous butterflies.
> Rick Mikula
Well, that would be because they eat the ant larvae and pupae while
incarcerated. It's a complex relationship.
The British ant-tended blues  have been well studied; they find that the
ants reject the imago (emerged butterfly) but as it struggles to the
surface, its hairy pelt protects it from the ants that once tended it. 
	It has been suggested that the nectar the larvae produce is not only
sweet, but drugged. 
I'd like to know whether the white-footed ant (Technomyrmex albipes), a
fascinating ant new in these parts, has been seen tending blues. 
It's a grand little gardener, in my experience, and although it sets out
quantities of mealybugs, scale, aphids, psyllids etc., the plants don't
seem to mind. It keeps populations down, keeps fruit free of fungus, and
my plants are thriving under its supervision. 
It would be interesting to know whether the Miami blue is experiencing a
resurgence with this ant tending it.
Anne Kilmer
South Florida

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