Original Research

Some ecological factors influencing the breeding success of the Brenton Blue butterfly, Orachrysops niobe (Trimen) (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)

D.A. Edge
Koedoe | Vol 45, No 2 | a24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v45i2.24 | © 2002 D.A. Edge | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 December 2002 | Published: 14 December 2002

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D.A. Edge, Potchefstroom University, South Africa

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Abstract

The Brenton Blue butterfly, Orachrysops niobe (Trimen, 1862) (Lepidoptera:Lycaenidae), is endemic to the southern Cape and is currently listed as Endangered. This study looks at some of the key ecological factors influencing the breeding success of the species—host plant abundance and condition, nectar sources, climate/ microclimate, and vegetation management techniques. The adult butterfly population was monitored over an entire breeding season; host plants were identified and individually monitored; and egg counts were done. This enabled the effects of a number of different management techniques to be evaluated (burning, cutting, physical removal of invasive elements, and combinations thereof). A fivefold increase in the population of O. niobe was observed over the breeding season. This increase was positively correlated to a similar increase in host plant abundance in the areas where cutting and physical removal of invasive elements was practiced. Burning, by contrast, appeared to have a negative impact on host plant and butterfly abundance over the same period. Impacts of other factors such as climate, nectar sources and the natural strength of the second brood are discussed. A hypothesis, of megaherbivore activity as the principal historical disturbance mechanism promoting locally favourable conditions for O. niobe to establish and maintain colonies, is proposed. Recommendations for reserve management and future research are made.

Keywords

Butterfly ecology; Endangered species; Nectar; Population dynamics; Population

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