Karner Blue Butterfly

Lycaeides Melissa Samuelis

What is the Karner Blue Butterfly?

As an endangered species, the butterfly is found in the northern part of the Wild Lupine's range, toward Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and Ohio. Due to habitat loss and increase in land development, the Karner Blue Butterfly has had difficulties surviving. But, because of its beauty and rarity, these butterflies are desirable for collectors; but the collectors have to have a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Butterfly Status

This species is experiencing a decline primarily due to human activities such as agriculture, urbanization, and fire suppression. The sandy habitat is essential for the blue lupine, and that particular plant species is essential for the survival of the Karner Blue Butterfly. The populations have been reduced both by habitat destruction and the loss of lupine through natural succession resulting from fire suppression. The most intact populations remain in in Saratoga County.

Reproduction Habits

The Karner Blue Butterfly usually has up to two generations, two hatches, each year in April. The eggs will go through all the four stages until July which is when they become young butterflies. Forty to fifty percent of the eggs survive to the adult stage. The larvae, however, are high specialized, feeding exclusively on the wild lupine leaves. Without lupine, the Karner butterfly will not survive. The larvae that survive and become adults will mate and lay eggs that following spring. Due to their rapid reproduction process , little production of offspring, and the destruction of habitat, their lifespan is being cut shorter than other species of butterflies making it hard for them to keep populations growing.

Ecological Differences and Affects

Karner blue butterflies are endangered primarily because the savanna and barrens ecosystems that they depend on for survival are also endangered, mainly due to human activity. Recovering the Karner means recovering these unique and interesting ecosystems. Restoring these systems will not only result in recovery of Karner blue populations, but will also help stabilize and enhance the populations of many other species of plants and animals that depend on these ecosystems for survival. Allowing these other species to survive will allow the food chain to stabilize and the natural cycle of reproduction and death to be less harmful than it has been and it is presently.

Economical Differences and Affects

The loss of the Karner Blue Butterfly means loss of biodiversity (animals and plants alike). This loss in biodiversity is a huge economic strife when it comes to financial situations: for example -- restoring these ecosystems, trying to keep these species alive, and putting forth the protection these areas need is requiring large amounts of economical benefits that are only temporary fixes and do not insure the survival of the Karner Blue species and other species that are dependent.

Ways of Preventing Extinction

The Karner Blue Butterfly was Federally listed as an endangered species in 1992. The US Fish and Wildlife Service prepared a recovery plan that creates priorities needed to conserve and restore the species.
The Habitat Conservation Plan in Wisconsin has been implemented by the state that permits human activities in areas that support Karners but ensures that the activities are conducted in ways that conserve and protect their environment.
There is, also, habitat protection policies near lupine and nectar plants where it is managed and protected. Due to this protection, other species will also thrive.
Reintroductions have been implemented to expand the butterfly's environment and habitat to Ohio, Indiana, and New Hampshire. This is to start new populations in areas of these states where this butterfly has extirpated.