There is another butterfly for whom I provide habitat here in Wisconsin. I learned of this butterfly shortly after moving here. It is the tiny Karner Blue. The silvery blue Karner Blue has weathered the storm of federal endangerment. It was listed as Federally Endangered in 1992. But, in Wisconsin, where I believe the largest population of Karner Blue’s live it is listed simply as a species of concern. However, this listing has not deterred our state from being instrumental in conserving habitat and protecting our population of the Karner Blue Butterfly.
The habitat for this beautiful butterfly naturally occurs in our great mid-western state of Wisconsin, to include Oak Savannahs and Pine Barrens. The habitat also occurs in six other U.S. states, according to a Karner Blue Butterfly Expert. These states are New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota. However, the key element to the survival of the Karner Blue Butterfly is the presence of the larval host plant, the Wild Blue Lupine. The larva or caterpillar life cycle stage of the Karner Blue Butterfly only feeds on this plant! In most places, the population of Karner Blues has been endangered by the occurrence of increased human development.
Does this all sound familiar? It should! The Karner Blue’s survival depends on the availability of one plant, the Wild Blue Lupine, just like the Monarch’s survival depends on the availability of Milkweed. Unlike the Monarch which usually has four to five generations per breeding season, the Karner Blue only has two generations per summer. The first generation is emerging now, laying eggs on lupine plants, feeding on the lupine, and emerging again as Butterflies in July after time spent in their chrysalis.
So, what have I done to help the Karner Blue? As always, one of the first things was educating myself. There are many websites which can help with this. Here are a few to get you started if you are interested:
After familiarizing myself with the needs and habitat of this butterfly, I was able to share my knowledge with others and start looking for the Karner Blue. At our cabin, in Northern Wisconsin, we found some wild blue lupine – growing wild! This furthered my interest and I dug up a plant from our property there to bring it home to where our residence is closer to the actual range of the Karner Blue in West Central Wisconsin. Unfortunately, that plant only lived for several years. I missed having it last year, so this year I took steps to plant more Wild Blue Lupine in my yard.
Wild Blue Lupine is a native plant species that grows naturally in Oak Savannahs and Pine Barrens, which means that it is a native plant to our area of Wisconsin. It also supports other species and conservation of this habitat is imperative because it is a habitat that is globally threatened. So, anything private land owners can do to support the habitat for the Karner Blue in areas of Oak Savannahs and Pine Barrens also supports the preservation of theses increasingly area of land. In fact, in Wisconsin there is a landowner group that supports the conservation of Karner Blue Habitat. You can read about that here.
I obtained a tray of Wild Blue Lupine (38 plants) from Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona Minnesota this spring. I have planted 28 of them around my yard. The plants were healthy and a good size. However, I am not sure we have the correct soil to support the growth of these plants. I hope they grow well and eventually might attract some Karner Blue even though we reside slightly outside the range of this tiny butterfly.
And although the gardens at the school where I now work are over-planted, I might take the remainder of the plants there. There are some Russell Hybrid Lupines already in the garden beds, and the addition of the Wild Blue Lupines would be welcome, I’m sure. I also think I could spare a few of these plants, so if you are a local friend of mine and think you’d like to plant a Wild Blue Lupine in your yard, let me know! I can get you a plant!
There are many reasons to be involved in conservation efforts for this butterfly (and others). They are part of the food web, they are aesthetically beautiful, and they are pollinators! It is Pollinator Week here in the United States, so I wanted to write at least one post on the importance of saving our pollinators. Did you know that it is estimated that one in every three bites of our food is due to the role our pollinators play in the environment? Without pollinators, we will have much less food! This is definitely a reason to take action!