Oviposition-site preferences of a declining butterfly Erebia medusa (Lepidoptera: Satyrinae) in nutrient-poor grasslands

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Abstract

Butterflies belong to one of the most intensively studied invertebrate groups. However, detailed information on the larval ecology is still lacking in many species. This is especially true for the grass-feeding subfamily Satyrinae, to which our study species, the Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa Fabricius, 1787), belongs. At the habitat level, E. medusa exhibits a clear preference for abandoned grasslands with litter accumulation. In this study, we assessed the host-plant and oviposition preferences of E. medusa at the microhabitat level, i.e., within occupied habitat patches, in the Diemel Valley (Central Germany). Only two species of grass, Festuca ovina agg. and F. rubra agg., were systematically used for oviposition. Egg density was positively correlated with patchiness of herb layer, potential daily length of sunshine, and abandonment. However, the explanatory power of these parameters was low. We attribute this primarily to an ample supply of host plants growing under suitable conditions in the occupied habitat patches of E. medusa. The positive effect of abandonment is probably due to the fact that the average height of oviposition sites of E. medusa is greater than in most other satyrine species, which renders the eggs more vulnerable to mechanical disturbance. Moreover, thick layers of litter, which develop after the cessation of grazing or mowing, might be important as they modify the microclimate at the locations of the immature stages.

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Stuhldreher, G., & Fartmann, T. (2015). Oviposition-site preferences of a declining butterfly Erebia medusa (Lepidoptera: Satyrinae) in nutrient-poor grasslands. European Journal of Entomology, 112(3), 493–499. https://doi.org/10.14411/eje.2015.067

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