Maculinea arion (Linnaeus, 1758) Large Blue, Schwarzflecken Blauling, Azuré du serpolet, Голубянка арион, Արիոն կապտաթիթեռ.
Distribution and biological peculiarities in Armenia: The species is widely distributed from Spain eastwards through Kazakhstan and Mongolia to Japan, its range includes number of European countries and Caucasus. Armenia is inhabited by subspecies zaraJachontov, 1935. The species demonstrates parasitic relationship with Myrmica ants, specifically with Myrmica sabuleti. Host plants for caterpillars of early instars are Thymus sp. and Origanum vulgare. Caterpillars of later stages feed on larvae of Myrmica ants. In Armenia the species inhabits mountain steppes, sub-alpine grasslands, and forest edges from 1100 to 2200 m a.s.l. Flight period is mainly from early July to early August in single generation.
Population dynamics: The population shows steep decline (p<0.05) which was mostly observed in the areas with heavy overgrazing practice. The latest results in soil erosion and habitat degradation at the steep slopes of mountain pastures, which are affected by removal of plants, but also by hoofs of livestock. In Armenia we do not observe cases of pasture abandonment (as it was reported for Europe), but rather over-exploitation of those. The host ants have not been yet defined for the species, and therefore their role in population decline is unclear. All the areas of species distribution except probably far southern ones are located at the areas of intensive seasonal livestock husbandry.
Conservation measures: The species is included in the Red Book of Animals of Armenia, however its national conservation status is lower than the European. Taking the observed decline of its population it is necessary to re-assess the conservation status of the species for National Red List. The species is protected in Khosrov Forest Reserve, in Zangezur Biosphere Complex, and in National Parks, however significant portion of its population remains unprotected. The species is included in the Appendix II of Bern Convention and is taken into consideration during assessment of Prime Butterfly Areas (PBA), with further transfer of that information to Emerald Sites. In particular occurrence of the species in two Prime Butterfly Areas of Southern Armenia (along with other target species) leaded to the process including of that area into Emerald Sites. Further development of PBA network can support protection of other populations of the species, via conservation of the sites, or development of alternative grazing practices and land use practices in those areas.