We experimentally assessed ant-related oviposition and larval performance in the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri). Ant tending had sex-dependent effects on most measures of larval growth: female larvae generally benefitted from increased tending frequency whereas male larvae were usually unaffected. The larger size of female larvae tended by ants resulted in a substantial predicted increase in lifetime egg production. Oviposition by adult females that were tended by C. floridanus ants as larvae was similar between host plants with or without ants. However, they laid relatively more eggs on plants with ants than did females raised without ants, which laid less than a third of their eggs on plants with ants present. In summary, we found conditional benefits for larvae tended by ants that were not accompanied by oviposition preference for plants with ants present, which is a reasonable result for a system in which ant presence at the time of oviposition is not a reliable indicator of future ant presence. More broadly, our results emphasize the importance of considering the consequences of variation in interspecific interactions, life history traits, and multiple measures of performance when evaluating the costs and benefits of mutualistic relationships.