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Endangered Species Program
Conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems
Karner Blue Butterfly
Prepared by the Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Team for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Region 3) - September 2003
Below is the Executive Summary of the Recovery Plan. Click here for the complete 293-page (PDF) Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Plan.
Current Species Status: The Karner blue butterfly, Lycaeides melissa samuelis Nabokov (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae), formerly occurred in a band extending across 12 states from Minnesota to Maine and in the province of Ontario, Canada, and now only occurs in the seven states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, and Ohio. Wisconsin and Michigan support the greatest number of Karner blue butterflies and butterfly sites. The majority of the populations in the remaining states are small and several are at risk of extinction from habitat degradation or loss.
Based on the decline of the Karner blue across its historic range, it was listed as endangered in 1992. Since listing, two populations have been extirpated and are being reintroduced to Concord, New Hampshire, and West Gary, Indiana. A third population is being reintroduced to Ohio.
Habitat Requirements and Limiting Factors: The Karner blue butterfly is dependent on wild lupine, Lupinus perennis L. (Fabaceae), its only known larval food plant, and on nectar plants. These plants historically occurred in savanna and barrens habitats typified by dry sandy soils, and now occur in remnants of these habitats, as well as other locations such as roadsides, military bases, and some forest lands. The primary limiting factors are loss of habitat through development, and canopy closure (succession) without a concomitant restoration of habitat. A shifting geographic mosaic that provides a balance between closed and open-canopy habitats is essential for the maintenance of large viable populations of Karner blue butterflies.
Recovery Objectives: The objective of this recovery plan is to restore viable metapopulations of Karner blues across the species extant range so that it can be reclassified from endangered to threatened. The long-range goal is to remove it from the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
Recovery Criteria: The reclassification criteria will be met when a minimum of 27 metapopulations [19 viable metapopulations (supporting 3,000 butterflies each), and 8 large viable metapopulations (supporting 6,000 butterflies each)] are established within at least 13 recovery units across the butterfly’s range and are being managed consistent with the recovery objectives outlined in this plan. Delisting will be considered when a minimum of 29 metapopulations (13 viable and 16 large viable metapopulations) have been established within at least 13 recovery units and are being managed consistent with the plan.
1. Protect and manage Karner blue and its habitat to perpetuate viable metapopulations.
Date of Recovery: Full recovery of the species is anticipated to require at least 20 years, until about 2023.
Last updated: October 10, 2018