Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office

Midwest Region


Wisconsin Field Office

2661 Scott Tower Drive
Green Bay, WI 54229-9565
Phone: 920-866-1717
Fax: 920-866-1710
TTY: 1-800-877-8339 (Federal Relay)

e-mail: GreenBay@fws.gov


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Karner Blue Butterfly

(Lycaeides melissa samuelis)


Photo by USFWS: Joel Trick


Karner Blue Butterfly


Status: Endangered, listed December 14, 1992


Habitat: Pine barrens and oak savannas on sandy soils and containing wild lupines (Lupinus perennis), the only known food plant of larvae.


Lead FWS Region: 3 (Midwest)


Region 3 Lead Office: Green Bay, Wisconsin Field Office


Range: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin


Karner Blue Images on Flickr


The Karner blue is a small blue butterfly with a wingspan of only about one inch. Yet, managing for this small endangered species has helped improve and expand habitat for many rare species in central Wisconsin.


Throughout its range Karner blue habitat was lost as wildfires were suppressed, forests planted in savannas, and human infrastructured expanded. Once found from Minnesota to the Atlantic Coast, the Karner is now found only in disjunct populations in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin has the most most widespread population. Wisconsin's state-wide Karner blue HCP and other recovery actions have helped restore and secure Karner populations as well as their oak savanna habitat.


Listen to a podcast!

Find out about the karner blue butterfly from field biologist Cathy Carnes. Cathy has helped recover Karner blues since 1992.


Audio Clip


Life History, Ecology and Regulatory Information

Species Profile (links to the FWS national site)


Fact Sheet


Karner Blue Home on FWS Midwest site


Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery in Wisconsin:

Recovery has included research to map and monitor suitable habitat and populations and to evaluate management actions; propogation for reintroductions; habitat restoration; habitat management; and land protection.


Propagation Handbook for the Karner Blue Butterfly (Nov. 2010)


Landowners Help Karner Blues (PDF)


2006 Private Stewardship Grant: Karner blue butterfly and associated declining species of savanna and barrens (Portage, Waupaca, Outagamie, Waushara, Adams, Marquette, Green Lake, Jackson, Wood, Juneau, and Monroe counties, Wisconsin)


2006 Section 6 Grant: Determination of the status of Piping Plovers, Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid, Prairie Bush Clover, Fassett's Locoweed, and implement recovery management for Karner Blue Butterfly and Fassett's Locoweed (Wisconsin)


Karner blue butterfly on stem.

Photo by USFWS Phil Delphey

Karner Blue Butterfly Research, Monitoring and Management

Research and monitoring are essential components for Karner blue recovery. Monitoring and research results document the success or failure of management techniques so that the techniques can be adjusted. This is particularly important during a time of rapid climate change.


A Guide to the Use of Distance Sampling to Estimate Abundance of Karner blue butterflies


List of Researchers and Managers


High Potential Range Maps in Wisconsin


Karner Blue Butterfly Threats Summary Table (PDF)


Wisconsin's Statewide Habitat Conservation Plan

Always an innovator, the state of Wisconsin was the first state to develop a state-wide HCP for a listed species. The state-wide HCP allowed state agencies and private landowners to continue their actions that may affect Karner habitat, while ensuring that measures were taken to minimize harm to the species.


Renewal of Wisconsin Statewide Karner Blue Butterfly HCP (July 2010)


2010 Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grant:
Quincy Bluff and Wetlands SNA and Karner Blue Meadow SNA (Adams and Waushara Counties, Wisconsin) $452,000


2009 Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grant:

Karner blue butterfly HCP land acquisition – Quincy Bluff (Adams County, Wisconsin)


2007 Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grant: Karner Blue Butterfly HCP Land Acquisition - Wisconsin (Waupaca and Burnett Counties, WI)


The Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan Fact Sheet


Questions and Answers about the Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan


Wisconsin's Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan


Wisconsin Karner Blue Statewide HCP - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources


Karner Blue Articles and Links


Butterflies Benefit from Statewide HCP (July 2000)


The Karner blue butterfly: an article about the species and its ecosystem (April 1997)


The Beauty and Benefits of Savannas: Necedah National Wildlife Refuge - learn about management for the Karner blue butterfly's ecosystem (April 1997)


Of Wings and Warriors: management for the Karner blue butterfly on Fort McCoy in Wisconsin (January 1997)


Wild lupine and Karner blue butterflies: an article about the Karner blue's relationship with wild lupine (November 1996)


Environmental Education for Kids (EEK)! - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources




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Last updated: January 7, 2020