What do orange juice containers, jugs of water, gardening trowels and fifth grade students have in common? They are all part of a recovery effort for the endangered Karner blue butterly. Students from Beaver Meadow Elementary School in New Hampshire used the orange juice containers to germinate lupine, New Jersey tea, and yarrow seeds, plants critical to the life cycle and survival of this rare butterfly. This small but showy butterfly is found in only 2 locations (Concord, NH and Albany, NY) east of the Mississippi.
On a bright sunny day, these 5th grade students, along with Bio-Buddy teams of second grade students matched with high school seniors from Concord High, plant their seedlings in an effort to establish and restore critical Karner blue butterfly habitat. The seniors have been working with the 2nd grade students all year, teaching them about Karner blue butterflies and pine barrens. The seniors expertly engage their younger buddies to talk about lupines and Karner blues as they plant their lupines. As they finish up the planting, Senior Lindsay tells the group, “If I don’t get my hands dirty, it’s not a good day.”
After planting and watering their plants, the students hike through the easement, part of the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in search of wild Karner blue butterflies. Along the way, they see thriving clumps of flowering lupines planted by students 3-4 years ago. The students discover other insects visiting the lupines, including bumble bees, a tiger beetle, and other butterflies. Most of the students get a rare glimpse of wild Karner blue butterflies that hatched just a few days ago.
New Hampshire Fish and Game manages the 26-acre easement of the Great Bay NWR and an additional 400 acres at the Concord Airport for this critically endangered butterfly. Through successful habitat management and restoration, and successful captive rearing programs, they have brought this population back from extirpation to 250 wild butterflies and almost 4,000 captive reared butterflies in 2009.
As the field trip comes to a close, everyone feels a sense of accomplishment and pride; taking small steps in their corner of the world, to accomplish a much larger mission of preserving wildlife and habitat for future generations of Americans.
Wild karner blue butterfly
White and blue lupines