Guy Documents New Jerk Species of Butterfly

My college transcripts will plainly show I nearly failed Latin (twice!), but if there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s that Adelotypa annulifera translates roughly to “ungrateful dickhead.” That’s the scientific name of an Amazonian butterfly whose behaviors have finally been documented by entomologist Phil Torres and biologist Aaron Pomerantz, revealing what a horrendous manners these winged freeloaders exhibit towards ants.


The ant/butterfly relationship starts unassumingly enough. Inside bamboo shoots, the butterflies lay their eggs, and the ants do some free babysitting for the larvae. Why? Maybe ants are incredibly decent, borderline-philanthropic creatures. Or maybe they’re breathtakingly gullible. Torres and Pomerantz aren’t totally sure yet.

In their next stage of life the caterpillars provide food for the ants in exchange for protection. So far seems this like a good investment for the ants—until the caterpillars become butterflies which feed on the nectar that pools at the tops of these bamboo shoots. The dickhead butterfliles intentionally keep the ants from feeding on this nectar. You know, like any dickhead would do. It’s an exceptionally rude affront, considering these are probably the exact ants that helped to raise the butterflies when they were defenseless.

Adelotypa annulifera gets away with it in part by developing red markings on the undersides of its winds that make it look like an ant, if you have the visual acuity of an ant. Another dick move.

You can read Torres and Pomerantz paper on these little assholes in the Journal of the Lepidopterists Society.

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With insects, the general rule is that if you don’t understand why a bug does a particular thing, check the chemistry. Insects have very basic brains, and respond in a very reliable fashion to pheromones and other scents. All the butterfly would have to do is to make these eggs smell like that species of ant’s eggs, and no matter where they find them, they’ll guard them with their lives.

Think of an ant like a little arduino board with legs and jaws. It’s stimulus and response, and very little else. The organism is the colony, the ant worker is merely an element of a larger organism. It lacks the capacity to reproduce but its genes are benefited by its fitness because the eggs of the colony are genetically similar to the worker ant.

If you worked your life to benefit your sister and her children, that would be an evolutionarily successful strategem because your sister is likely to have similar genes, so the end effect would be identical to having your own offspring and caring for them dutifully.