Larvae of Maculinea rebeli, a large-blue butterfly, and their Myrmica host ants: Wild adoption and behaviour in ant nests

  • Published source details Elmes G.W., Thomas J.A. & Wardlaw J.C. (1991) Larvae of Maculinea rebeli, a large-blue butterfly, and their Myrmica host ants: Wild adoption and behaviour in ant nests. Journal of Zoology, 223, 447-460.


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 controlled study (years not given) in a laboratory in the UK or France (location not clear) (Elmes et al. 1991) found that the survival of mountain Alcon blue Maculinea rebeli caterpillars reared in captivity differed between ant Myrmica spp. species, but not between colonies with or without queens present. Mountain Alcon blue caterpillars reared with Myrmica schencki (10 out of 99 survived to pupation) had higher survival rates than caterpillars reared with Myrmica sabuleti (4/78 survived), Myrmica scabrinodis (2/43 survived), Myrmica rubra (1/112 survived), Myrmica ruginodis (4/71 survived) or Myrmica sulcinodis (1/24 survived). The survival of caterpillars reared for three weeks in colonies with queens was 31–89%, compared to 43–78% without queens (statistical significance not assessed, see paper for details on each ant species). Over five years, >800 mountain Alcon blue caterpillars were introduced to 120 ant colonies kept in small plastic “Brian” nests (no further details provided). Colonies were collected from France and England, fed fruit flies Drosophila spp. and sucrose, and kept at a constant temperature which was adjusted weekly to mimic natural temperatures. Caterpillars were collected on their food plant, and placed into the foraging areas of the ants after emergence. Caterpillar survival was monitored for between three weeks and 10 months (to pupation) in the ant nests.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 20

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered speciesVincet Wildlife Trust