Callophrys irus is a rare and declining lycaenid found in the eastern U.S., inhabiting xeric and open habitats maintained by disturbance. Populations are localized and monophagous. We document a previously undescribed larval feeding behavior in both field and lab reared larvae in which late instar larvae girdled the main stem of the host plant. Girdled stems provide a unique feeding sign that was useful in detecting the presence of larvae in the field. We also observed frequent association of field larvae with several species of ants and provide a list of ant species. We suggest two hypotheses on the potential benefits of stem-girdling to C. irus larvae: 1) Stem girdling provides phloem sap as a larval food source and increases the leaf nutrient concentration, increasing larval growth rates and providing high quality honeydew for attending ants; 2) Stem girdling reduces stem toxicity by inhibiting transport of toxins from roots to the stem.
Additional publication details
Larval feeding behavior and ant association in frosted elfin, Callophrys irus (Lycaenidae)