|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
The Lycaenidae are the second-largest family of butterflies, with about 6000 species worldwide, are also known as the gossamer-winged butterflies. They comprise about 40 % of all known butterfly species (Venktesha, 2005). Traditional subfamilies include the blues (Polyommatinae), the coppers (Lycaeninae), the hairstreaks (Theclinae) and the harvesters (Miletinae); the others listed (Lipteninae, Liphyrinae, and Poritiinae) are not universally recognized. A few authorities include the family Riodinidae within the Lycaenidae. Adults are small, under 5 cm usually, and brightly coloured, sometimes with a metallic gloss. The male's forelegs are reduced in size and lack claws.
Larva of Eumaeus atalaLarvae are often flattened rather than cylindrical, with glands that may produce secretions that attract and subdue ants. Their cuticles tend to be thickened, and they do not thrash when ants are present as do most caterpillars (Pierce et al., 2002).
Lycaenids feed on various kinds of food including ferns, conifers, fungi, lichens, cycads, hemipterans (esp. aphids) and ant larvae.
Not all Lycaenidae butterflies need ants, but about 75% of species associate with ants (Pierce et al., 2002). The term used to describe this is a 'myrmecophilous' relationship.
These relationships can be mutualistic, parasitic, or predatory, depending on the species. In some species, larvae are attended and protected by ants while eating a plant, and the ants receive sugar-rich honeydew from them, throughout the larval life. In other species, only the first few instars are spent on the plant, and the remainder of the larval lifespan is spent as a predator within the ant nest. It becomes a parasite, feeding on ant regurgitations, or a predator on the ant larvae (Pierce et al., 2002) The caterpillars pupate inside the ant's nest and the ants continue to look after the pupa. Just before the adult emerges the wings of the butterfly inside the pupal case detach from it, and the pupa becomes silvery. The adult butterfly emerges from the pupa after 3-4 weeks, still inside the ant nest. The butterfly must crawl out of the ant nest before it can expand its wings.
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