A mowing experiment to evaluate the influence of management on the activity of host ants ofMaculineabutterflies

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Abstract

Maculinea butterflies obligatory parasitize certain species of Myrmica ants. Thus, the presence of the host ant species is a limiting factor for the survival of a Maculinea population. Here, we analyse the influence of vegetation structure and ground temperature on ant diversity and abundance on Maculinea habitats, with the final aim of identifying the environmental variables determining patterns of variation in species composition in order to recommend a mowing regime that will promote our three target species: Maculinea teleius, M. nausithous and M. alcon. Experimental plots with different mowing regimes were established at eight sites in South-Eastern Germany, a region which still contains a number of relatively large, stable populations of these threatened butterfly species. Among the seven different ant species recorded, four belong to the genus Myrmica (M. scabrinodis, M. rubra, M. ruginodis and M. vandeli). Among these, M. scabrinodis results most abundant at all sites. In a CCA analysis of environmental variables recorded at the studied plots, ant species diversity appears largely determined by litter cover, mean temperature, and mean grass cover. Mowing once a year, in the second half of September, after the larvae have left their host plants, enhances the abundance of Myrmica ants in the meadows, and would be the best management compromise for all three species.

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