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Midwest Region



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Karner Blue Butterfly

(Lycaeides melissa samuelis)


Photo of a Karner blue butterfly by Paul Labus of the The Nature Conservancy in Indiana

Photo by Paul Labus; The Nature Conservancy (Indiana).


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 Region: 3


Region 3 Lead Office: Green Bay, Wisconsin Field Office


Range: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota (possibly extirpated), New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin

The Karner blue butterfly, an endangered species, is a small butterfly that lives in oak savannas and pine barren ecosystems from eastern Minnesota and eastward to the Atlantic seaboard. Historically, it was found in a continuous band throughout its range but today is found in portions of New Hampshire, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Minnesota. The wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) is the only food plant for the Karner caterpillar. But the range of Karners and lupine do not completely overlap. Instead, Karners are found along the northern band of lupine range. Follow the links below for more information about the Karner blue butterfly life history and what is being done to save this endangered species.


Karner Blue photos on Flickr


Karner Blue Butterfly Final Recovery Plan


Karner Blue Butterfly 5-Year Review (129-page PDF Adobe PDF icon; 1MB) September 2012


Recovery Plan Update (February 25, 2011)


Final Recovery Plan (September 2003)


Federal Register Notice of Availability - Approved Recovery Plan for the Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis - September 19, 2003 (PDF Adobe PDF icon)


Karner Blue Butterfly Natural History and Regulatory Information:

USFWS Fact Sheet I  
USFWS Fact Sheet II
USFWS Species Profile
USFWS Chicago Field Office's Species Spotlight

Wild blue lupine

Wild blue lupine is the sole food for the Karner blue caterpillar.

Photo by USFWS; Joel Trick


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





Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Actions:

New Hampshire Breeding Program


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


USFWS Wisconsin Partners for Fish and Wildlife:

Restoring Habitat for Karner Blue Butterfly on Private Lands in Wisconsin


Oak Savanna Restoration Winnebago county


Landowners Help Karner Blues (PDF Adobe PDF icon)


The Nature Conservancy Reintroductions in Indiana


The Nature Conservancy and Toledo Zoo Reintroductions in Ohio


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)


New Hampshire Fish and Game Dept. Reintroduction (2005)

Karner Blue Butterfly Images on Flickr


Karner Blue Butterfly Research, Monitoring and Management

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


List of Researchers and Managers


High Potential Range in Wisconsin

High Potential Range Map in Wisconsin (PDF)


Karner Blue Butterfly Threats Summary Table (PDF Adobe PDF icon)


Safe Harbor Agreement

Enhancement of Survival Permit and Safe Harbor Agreement: Restoration Activities for the Karner Blue Butterfly in the West Gary, Indiana Recovery Unit (June 2006)


Habitat Conservation Plans


Northern Indiana Public Service Company (March 6, 2006)



State-wide Karner Blue Butterfly HCP

State of Michigan Karner Blue Butterfly HCP website



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


Articles About Karner Blue Butterflies:

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)


Links to Other Sites About Karner Blue Butterflies:

The Butterfly Conservation Initiative


Karner Blue Butterfly in Indiana - Chipper Woods Bird Observatory


Karner Blue Butterfly in Michigan - Michigan Department of Natural Resources


Karner Blue Butterfly in New York - New York Department of Conservation


The Karner Blue Butterfly and the Pine-Oak Barrens Ecosystem - The Roosevelt Wild Life Station (SUNY-Syracuse), Conservation and Education Research


Karner Blue Butterfly in Ohio - Ohio Department of Natural Resources


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


Wisconsin Karner Blue Statewide HCP - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources



Midwest Endangered Species Home


Last updated: March 12, 2018