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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Karner Blues Can Make a Comeback

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

What can you see more of in Wisconsin than any other state?

Snow? Green Bay Packers? Cheese curds?

What about ... butterflies?

Of the seven states where Karner blue butterflies are found, Wisconsin boasts the most.

karnerblue1The Karner Blue is highly coveted by some collectors. (Photo: Paul Labus/USFWS)

The Karner Blue butterfly was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in 1992 due to habitat loss and collection.

The Karner Blue is a beautiful butterfly, making it a desirable species for a butterfly collection. Male Karner Blues are slivery or even dark blue with narrow black margins on their wings. Females are more of a grayish brown with orange crescents inside a black border. Both only grow to be about 1 inch in length!

These beautiful butterflies reproduce two generations a year. The first generation hatches in April. These are eggs that were laid from the previous year. The second generation is laid in June and become butterflies in July.

Karner blues only eat lupine plants and lay their eggs at the plant as well, which is why its habitat range is so limited.

This rare butterfly has sentimental meaning to one of our very own biologists, Cathy Carnes. In 1992 she was at the right place at the right time and became the first Endangered Species Coordinator in Wisconsin. She spent her time creating a recovery team, recovery plan, and habitat conservation plan in collaboration with partners.

Carnes remains loyal to the butterfly species today, continuing her efforts to conserve the species. The Karner Blue butterfly has made great strides toward recovery, and Carnes isn’t giving up! She has been whole-heartedly invested in this project from day one.

Each week, throughout this ruby anniversary year of the Endangered Species Act, we’ll highlight stories of conservation success in every state across the country. Stay tuned!

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