Study

Habitat utilizations by the heath fritillary butterfly, Mellicta athalia ssp. celadussa (Rott.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in montane grasslands of different management

  • Published source details Schwarzwälder B., Lörtscher M., Erhardt A. & Zettel J. (1997) Habitat utilizations by the heath fritillary butterfly, Mellicta athalia ssp. celadussa (Rott.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in montane grasslands of different management. Biological Conservation, 82, 157-165.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Restore or create species-rich, semi-natural grassland

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation

Maintain species-rich, semi-natural grassland

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation

Cease mowing on grassland to allow early succession

Action Link
Butterfly and Moth Conservation
  1. Restore or create species-rich, semi-natural grassland

    A replicated, site comparison study in 1993–1994 in 16 alpine meadows in southern Switzerland (Schwarzwälder et al. 1997) found that restored meadows had a similar number of adult heath fritillary Mellicta athalia to old, abandoned meadows, and fewer adult males and caterpillars, but not females, than traditional hay meadows. The abundance of adult male heath fritillaries and caterpillars on restored meadows (males peak: 20–22 individuals/hour; caterpillars: 0–0.2 individuals/hour) was similar to old, abandoned meadows (males: 21 individuals/hour; no caterpillars), but less than traditionally managed hay meadows (males: 30 individuals/hour; caterpillars: 0.5–3.5 individuals/hour) and recently abandoned meadows (males: 40 individuals/hour; caterpillars: 4–8 individuals/hour). The number of females was not significantly different between meadows (restored: 7–14; old abandoned: 5; traditional: 5; recently abandoned: 14 individuals/hour). Marked butterflies were recorded moving between all habitat types. From 1992, two abandoned meadows were restored by annual mowing, and two were restored by mowing every 4–5 years. Five old, abandoned meadows had been unmanaged for >25 years, five traditional hay meadows were mown once/year in June or July, two recently abandoned meadows had been unmanaged for around six years. From June–July 1993–1994, adult butterflies were caught and marked for 45 minutes/meadow every other day. In 1994, each meadow was searched for three hours, spread over several days, to record solitary caterpillars.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

  2. Maintain species-rich, semi-natural grassland

    A replicated, site comparison study in 1993–1994 in 16 alpine meadows in southern Switzerland (Schwarzwälder et al. 1997) found that traditional hay meadows and recently abandoned meadows had a higher abundance of heath fritillary Mellicta athalia adult males and caterpillars, but not females, than old, abandoned or restored meadows. There were more adult males and caterpillars in traditional hay meadows (males peak: 30 individuals/hour; caterpillars: 0.5–3.5 individuals/hour) and recently abandoned meadows (males: 40 individuals/hour; caterpillars: 4–8 individuals/hour) than in old, abandoned (males: 21 individuals/hour; no caterpillars) or restored meadows (males: 20–22 individuals/hour; caterpillars: 0–0.2 individuals/hour). The number of females was not significantly different between meadows (traditional: 5; recently abandoned: 14; old abandoned: 5; restored: 7–14 individuals/hour). Marked butterflies were recorded moving between all habitat types. Five traditional hay meadows were mown once/year in June or July, five old, abandoned meadows had been unmanaged for >25 years, two recently abandoned meadows had been unmanaged for around six years. From 1992, two abandoned meadows were restored by annual mowing, and two were restored by mowing every 4–5 years. From June–July 1993–1994, adult butterflies were caught and marked for 45 minutes/meadow every other day. In 1994, each meadow was searched for three hours, spread over several days, to record solitary caterpillars.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

  3. Cease mowing on grassland to allow early succession

    A replicated, site comparison study in 1993–1994 in 16 alpine meadows in southern Switzerland (Schwarzwälder et al. 1997) found that recently abandoned meadows had a similar abundance of heath fritillary Mellicta athalia adults and caterpillars to traditional hay meadows, but old, abandoned, unmanaged meadows had fewer adult males and caterpillars, and a similar number of adult females. The abundance of adult male heath fritillaries and caterpillars on recently abandoned meadows (males peak: 40 individuals/hour; caterpillars: 4–8 individuals/hour) was similar to traditional hay meadows (males: 30 individuals/hour; caterpillars: 0.5–3.5 individuals/hour), but higher than on old, abandoned meadows (males: 21 individuals/hour; no caterpillars). The number of females was not significantly different between meadows (recently abandoned: 14; traditional: 5; old abandoned: 5 individuals/hour). Marked butterflies were recorded moving between all habitat types. Two recently abandoned meadows had been unmanaged for around six years, five traditional hay meadows were mown once/year in June or July, and five old, abandoned meadows had been unmanaged for >25 years. From June–July 1993–1994, adult butterflies were caught and marked for 45 minutes/meadow every other day. In 1994, each meadow was searched for three hours, spread over several days, to record solitary caterpillars.

    (Summarised by: Andrew Bladon)

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