Anti-Caturday: Alcon Blue

Phengaris alcon by kakapo’s nature

As you can see, the Alcon Blue is a butterfly species. It’s much like all other butterflies except in one very interesting respect; they make ants take care of them in the larval stage. The skin of the larva produces allomones that make the ants think it’s an ant larva, making them haul its fat ass back to the hill and among their own larva. There they will feed it and allow it to feed on their own larva until it’s large enough to pupate and go off to do butterfly-type things. At this point the ants finally recognize it for the interloper it is and start attacking it, which doesn’t even phase the Alcon Blue because it has come prepared, covered loosely connected scales that act as a buffer against their attacks.

The bad thing for the Alcon Blue larva is that it’s not alone in its mooching behavior. One of the lovely parasitical wasps, Ichneumon eumerus, targets Alcon Blue larva specifically. When they manage to locate the larva hidden in the ant hill they spray the poor ants with a pheromone that makes them attack each other instead of the wasp and in the confusion that follows it takes its sweet time locating and laying its eggs in the butterfly larva.

Lycaenid ant interaction, India

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