Michigan State Insect
Karner Blue Butterfly (common name)
Lycaeides melissa samuelis(scientific name)
The Karner blue is an attractive, small blue butterfly whose lifecycle depends on the wild blue lupine flower—it is the only plant on which the butterfly’s caterpillar can feed. Unfortunately, land development has reduced the lupine’s natural habitat, and the lack of wildfires and wild grazing animals have also adversely affected the natural growth cycles of lupines and other wild flowers. For these reasons the Karner blue is classified as an endangered species. The outer wings of the male are silver-blue or dark blue with narrow black edges. The female is grayish brown and blue with irregular bands of orange crescents along her wings’ black borders.
Wingspan: 0.9–1.3 in (2.2–2.3 cm)
Larvae: Light green with a darker green central stripe
Average of 11 months
Sunny fields in the sandy soils of pine barrens, oak savannas, and lakeshore dunes. The habitat must contain the wild blue lupine and other native flowers.
Range: Isolated pockets in the Great Lakes region, northern New Jersey, upstate New York, and southern New Hampshire.
Flight period: The Karner blue has two broods and flight periods per year. The first flight normally begins in mid-May (when the lupine blooms) and ends in mid-June. The second begins in mid-July and ends in mid-August.
Conservation status: Endangered. Although reintroduction and management efforts have contributed to population increases in the past, there have been notable losses in Concord, New Hampshire; New York State; and the Ivanhoe Dunes in Indiana.
Karner blues fly from early morning to early evening. When temperatures are very hot, rainy, windy, or below 75°F (24°C) they rest in areas protected from the elements. Male Karner blues fly more frequently than females and cover greater distances with their flights. Females spend more time gathering nectar than flying. Grasses are the butterfly’s preferred roosting sites. The Karner blue lays eggs twice a year; these eggs hatch in the spring (after having over-wintered on the host plant) and summer.
Adults: Karner blue butterflies eat the nectar of a variety of flowers including rock cress, Virginia strawberry, raspberry, New Jersey tea, goldenrod, blazing star, and butterfly weed.
Larva: The caterpillar of the Karner blue only eats the leaves of the wild blue lupine.
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|Author: World Trade Press|