Herding Caterpillars – the close relationship between ants and Lycaenid butterflies
For National Science Week, Butterfly Conservation SA (BCSA ) and the Friends of the Chequered Copper (Lucia limbaria) Butterfly facilitated a webinar on the LYCAENIDAE Family of butterflies. This event was supported by a National Science Week SA Community Grant.
Entomological experts and enthusiasts Emeritus Professor Roger Kitching AM, Mike Moore, Jan Forrest OAM, and Gerry Butler (BCSA President) delivered short talks about the amazing world of butterflies and their survival in our environment. The webinar included an ArcGIS Story Map of the amazing relationship between ants and butterflies, focusing on the Chequered Copper (Lucia limbaria) in Pakapakanthi/Victoria Park/Park 16 in Adelaide.
Roger Kitching is Emeritus Professor of Ecology at Griffith University in Brisbane. His 48 year research career in Australia has spanned CSIRO Entomology, the University of New England and Griffith University. He has had a lifelong interest in butterflies and moths and is co-author (with Bert Orr) of Butterflies of Australia (Allen & Unwin, 2010) as well as many research articles. His Lepidoptera studies have included major projects in Panama, China, France, Réunion and New Guinea as well as the rainforests of Australia. He received the 2017 Gregor Mendel medal of the Czech Academy of Sciences and was made of member of the Order of Australia in 2010.
Lycaenid larvae have a specialized secretory gland that attracts, appeases and rewards ants. Lycaenid larvae-ant associations fall into three broad categories: larvae not attended by ants; larvae frequently attended by ants (myrmecophilous); and larvae that are predacious upon ants or are fed by ants (aphytophagous).
The webinar detailed the (myrmecophilous) relationship of the Chequered Copper (Lucia limbaria) and its obligate ants, in which the larvae are frequently attended by ants. Here is a video with voiceover by Greg Coote of the Chequered Copper (Lucia limbaria) butterfly’s caterpillars and the common black ant (Iridomyrmex rufoniger).
Here is a link to Jan Forrest’s presentation: Ogyris otanes (Small Bronze Azure butterfly) video