Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 357–366 | Cite as

Multiple oviposition and larval feeding strategies in Euphydryas maturna (Linné, 1758) (Nymphalidae) at two disjoint European sites

  • Matthias Dolek
  • Anja Freese-Hager
  • Adi Geyer
  • Emilio Balletto
  • Simona Bonelli


Globally, Euphydryas maturna is a polyphagous butterfly species. At our study sites in Italy and Germany however, the plant used for egg-laying was almost exclusively Fraxinus excelsior. Nevertheless, in Germany, two egg-batches were found on Ligustrum vulgare and one on Viburnum opulus. Females lay their egg-batches at low heights and mostly on small trees (but not <1 m). At the end of the flight season, small egg-batches are laid and we conclude that these are late batches laid by “old females”. Egg-batches and pre-diapause larval webs are often clustered on certain trees and even leaves. This was shown to be a result of female behaviour and not of habitat quality, since the trees chosen were different in subsequent years. Individual females may return for laying further egg-batches to the place of the first egg-deposition and other females follow, since the survival of pre-diapause larvae is higher when more larval webs are on one tree. A further possible advantage during hibernation is discussed. In Italy, post-hibernation larvae form two distinct cohorts: larvae feeding on herbaceous plants (Plantago major, P. minor, Veronica hederifolia), and larvae feeding on Fraxinus excelsior. Although the latter group starts feeding later and pupates later, it reaches the same pupation weight. At our German site, post-hibernation larvae were found almost exclusively on F. excelsior. In fact, we observed larvae searching for food on F. excelsior while the buds of this tree were still closed. We also found larvae searching for food in the herbal layer without finding suitable plants. In some areas, larvae have to wait for the buds of the ash tree to open. Our data suggest that conservation strategies for E. maturna must be site specific according to food plant use of pre- and post-hibernation larvae and habitat type.


Butterfly conservation Larval ecology Egg-laying Food plant Pre-diapause larvae Post-diapause larvae 



We gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, which also supplied the necessary permits for carrying out our investigations. The Bavarian study was conducted on behalf of Bayerisches Landesamt für Umwelt (LfU, Bavarian Agency of Environment) and supported by the regional conservation authorities (Regierung von Mittelfranken, Landratsamt Neustadt a. d. Aisch). This research was funded within the project CLIMIT (Climate Change Impacts on Insects and their Mitigation; Settele and Kühn 2009; Thomas et al. 2009) funded by DLR-BMBF (Germany), NERC and DEFRA (UK), ANR (France), Formas (Sweden), and Swedish EPA (Sweden) through the FP6 BiodivERsA Eranet.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Dolek
    • 2
  • Anja Freese-Hager
    • 2
  • Adi Geyer
    • 2
  • Emilio Balletto
    • 1
  • Simona Bonelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia AnimaleTorinoItaly
  2. 2.Ökologische Forschung und PlanungWörthseeGermany

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