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Micro-habitat features determine oviposition site selection in High Brown and Dark Green Fritillaries

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/10/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Insect Conservation
Issue number5
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)841-853
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date11/08/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Abstract: The survival of butterfly populations depends on successful oviposition strategies. The limited mobility of early life stages requires females to select sites that reflect larval requirements. However, as land use and climate changes are altering habitat conditions and micro-climate, some species may adapt ovipositing strategies and flourish while others, with narrow niche requirements, may be unable to respond. Oviposition site selection and micro-habitat niche is examined for two closely related butterfly species—the specialist High Brown Fritillary (Fabriciana adippe) and relative generalist Dark Green Fritillary (Speyeria aglaja) through field observations of egg-laying females and analysis of micro-habitat characteristics. A total of 104 oviposition behaviour observations across both species were recorded in 69 1 m 2 quadrats, with the habitat characteristics compared to randomly selected quadrats in the same area. Results show that higher host plant density was a positively significant factor for oviposition site selection only for the High Brown Fritillary. Moreover, the cover of live Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) and grass were important for site selection in both species, with High Brown Fritillaries tolerating less live Bracken and grass cover than Dark Green Fritillaries. This confirms the more specific requirements and narrower micro-habitat niche of the High Brown Fritillary, which appears to be more sensitive to micro-habitat cooling. Implications for insect conservation: The management of Bracken mosaic habitats for these two species should aim to supress grass growth and maintain Bracken density within limits, by opening the Bracken canopy on a rotation through grazing or manual cutting, ensuring a continuous supply of suitable micro-habitat.