Effect of grazing intensity on the interaction between Shijimiaeoides divinus asonis (Matsumura, 1929) and its attendant ants


Correspondence: Kouhei Murata, Applied Plant Science, School of Agriculture, Tokai University, Minamiaso 869-1404, Japan.

Email: kmurata@agri.u-tokai.ac.jp


This study was carried out in the natural herbaceous grassland of Mt. Aso, which had been almost completely grazed, and which is subjected to routine grassland burning every spring (February or March) to conserve Shijimiaeoides divinus asonis (Matsumura, 1929). We clarify that ants protect the larvae of this butterfly and evaluate the effects of grazing intensity on the attendant ant population. The results obtained are summarized as follows: (i) Five species of attendant ant were identified, with the dominant species being Formica japonica (Motschulsky, 1866) and Camponotus japonicus (Mayr, 1866). (ii) The number of attendant ants decreased at night time; however, only one or two ants attended the larva until the following morning. (iii) Ten species of insect excluding ants and three species of spiders that approached the larva were recorded on the larval host-plant. Formica japonica and C. japonicus fought off most newcomers of other insects including the natural enemies of these butterfly larvae. (iv) The number of ants in this butterfly habitat under regular grazing intensity was significantly higher than during low grazing intensity and non-grazing periods. (v) A positive correlation was found between the number of attendant ants and the number of butterfly larvae on the host-plant. We concluded that the interaction between this butterfly and attendant ants is one of facultative mutualism because the attendant ants protect the butterfly larva. Therefore, the numbers of this butterfly species may decrease if the number of attendant ants decreases due to the cessation of pasturage.