Real Gardens

Butterflies Have Nannies, Too.

Ant
This just in from the AP:

Researchers in Denmark report that the Alcon blue butterfly has
managed to produce larvae with a chemical coating similar to that of
the local Myrmica rubra ants. The butterflies deposit their
larvae on marsh gentian plants where exploring ants find them, identify
the chemical coating, and take the butterfly larvae back to the ant
colony and feed them until they grow up and leave.

Read more at New Scientist. The photo comes from David Nash, one of the researchers.

Posted by on January 3, 2008 at 11:28 am, in the category Real Gardens.
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5 responses to “Butterflies Have Nannies, Too.”

  1. Basavaraj says:

    I have big yard of about 3 acres. I want to grwo good grass. I am in Central part of NJ. The yard has lot of crab grass and weeds. Lawn expert from Home depot has recommended me to Scott’s step1 in March. This should take care of weeeds and fertilizing. Then I want to overseed in Fall. Please give your expert opinion on the above. Thanks.

  2. chuck b. says:

    Yeah, let’s hear it! Experts!

  3. Lisa Albert says:

    Wow, this certainly puts a new spin on the ugly duckling story. I love learning about these interconnections and adaptations. Nature is simply amazing.

  4. Lisa Albert says:

    I read the article at the link provided and it raised a question that I’m going to throw out to the cosmos and see what comes back.

    Butterfly caterpillars are very plant specific; plant toxins limit which plants they can feed upon. Does that change when they are in the ants’ nest? AFAIK, ants’ feeding habits aren’t limited by plant toxins (but I haven’t studied ants). Perhaps this type of butterfly is a generalist, not a specialist, and that’s how it copes.

    Very interesting.

  5. JT says:

    These ants are so-called generalists, predating and scavenging on whatever is available. It’s a good question . . . what exactly do the caterpillars eat when tended by the ants? Few lepidopteran species are carnivorous or omnivorous. Fascinating adaptation. If the cats are kept in captivity, can they be compelled to continue feeding on the original plant substrate? Is the ant feeding phase necessary to their maturation process?

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