Karner Blue Butterfly
Photo by USFWS; Phil Delphey
Karner blue butterfly is an endangered species. Endangered Species are
animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened
species are animals and plants that are likely to become endangered
in the foreseeable future. Identifying, protecting, and restoring, endangered
and threatened species are the primary objectives of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service's endangered species program.
What is the Karner Blue Butterfly?
Name - Lycaeides melissa samuelis
- Appearance - The male and female of this small (wingspan of about one inch) butterfly
are different in appearance. The topside of the male is silvery or
dark blue with narrow black margins. The female is grayish brown,
especially on the outer portions of the wings, to blue on the topside,
with irregular bands of orange crescents inside the narrow black border.
The underside of both sexes is gray with a continuous band of orange
crescents along the edges of both wings and with scattered black spots
circled with white.
- Reproduction - The Karner blue butterfly usually has two generations, and thus two hatches, each year. In April, the first group of caterpillars hatch from eggs that were laid the previous year. The caterpillars feed only on wild lupine plant leaves. By about mid-May, the caterpillars
pupate and adult butterflies emerge from their cocoon-like chrysalis
by the end of May or in early June. These adults mate, laying their
eggs in June on or near wild lupine plants. The eggs hatch in about
one week and the caterpillars feed for about three weeks. They then
pupate and the summer's second generation of adult butterflies appears
in July. These adults mate and lay eggs that will not hatch until
the following spring.
The wild blue lupine flower.
Photo by USFWS; Joel Trick
Habitats - Karner blue caterpillars feed only on the leaves
of the wild lupine plant. Adults feed on the nectar of flowering plants.
This severely restricts where they can survive.
- Range - Karner blue butterflies are found in the northern part of the wild
lupine's range. The butterfly is most widespread in Wisconsin, and
can be found in portions of Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire,
New York, and Ohio. It may also be present in Illinois.
Why Is the Karner Blue Butterfly Endangered?
Loss or Degradation - Habitat throughout the range of the
Karner blue butterfly has been lost as a result of land development
and lack of natural disturbance, such as wildfire and grazing by large
mammals. Such disturbance helps maintain the butterfly's habitat by
setting back encroaching forests, encouraging lupine and flowering
- Collection - The Karner blue butterfly's rarity and beauty make it a desirable
addition to butterfly collections. Because butterfly numbers are so
low, the collection of even a few individuals could harm the butterfly
population. Collection is illegal without a permit from the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service.
What Is Being Done to Prevent Extinction of the Karner Blue Butterfly?
- Listing - The Karner blue butterfly was Federally listed as an endangered
species in 1992.
Plan - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepared a Recovery Plan that describes and prioritizes actions needed to conserve and restore this species. The Service and its partners are implementing that Plan.
- Research - Researchers are studying the Karner blue butterfly to find the best
way to manage for the butterfly and its habitat.
Protection - Where possible, the butterfly's habitat (pine and
oak savanna/barrens supporting wild lupine and nectar plants) is managed
and protected. Other kinds of animals and plants will also benefit
from protection of the butterfly's habitat.
Habitat Conservation Plan - Wisconsin has implemented a statewide
Habitat Conservation Plan that permits human activities (such as roadside
maintenance and timber harvests) in areas that support Karners but
ensures that the activities are conducted in ways that conserve and
protect the species and its habitat.
- Reintroductions - Zoos are propagating Karner blues and those butterflies are being released in suitable habitat in Ohio, Indiana and New Hampshire to start new populations in areas where this butterfly had been extirpated.
What Can I Do to Help Prevent the Extinction of Species?
- Learn - Learn more about the Karner blue butterfly and other endangered
and threatened species. Understand how the destruction of habitat
leads to loss of endangered and threatened species and our nation's
plant and animal diversity. Tell others about what you have learned.
- Volunteer - Volunteer at a nearby zoo, nature center, or National Wildlife Refuge.
- Join - Join a conservation group; many have local chapters.
- Plant - Plant a garden with flowers that attract butterflies. Use native
plants in your lawn and gardens.
Fact Sheet Revised
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