My university 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 behaviours have finally been documented by entomologist Phil Torres and biologist Aaron Pomerantz, revealing what 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 butterflies 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 defenceless.
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.