You’ve been learning about the endangered Karner blue butterfly, and you want to know more. Where does this small blue creature live? What biome does the Karner blue butterfly live in? How has it adapted to its environment? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Does the Karner Blue Butterfly Live?
The Karner blue butterfly once had a much larger range than it does now; and even this larger range took up a relatively small portion of eastern North America. The band extended from parts of eastern Minnesota through the Great Lakes region as far east as New Hampshire.
This band encompassed twelve states as well as the province of Ontario in Canada.
Now, the Karner blue remains only in small pockets scattered throughout their previous range. Their numbers have greatly decreased due to habitat loss, climate change, and even localized weather events.
These pockets of Karner blue butterflies can be found in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, New York, and New Hampshire. The butterflies are believed to be extirpated from Ontario, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and Pennsylvania.
Karner blues are found almost entirely in open forest and woodland areas, such as pine barrens and oak savannas, where wild blue lupine grows in abundance. The Karner blue depends on this plant for its survival, as it is the only plant its larvae will eat.
What Biome Does the Karner Blue Butterfly Live In?
The Karner blue lives in the temperate deciduous forest biome, which makes up the majority of the eastern half of the United States as well as southeastern parts of Canada.
This biome is characterized by forests of broadleaf deciduous trees, the leaves of which turn bright shades of yellow, orange, and red before dropping in the fall. This biome experiences all four seasons and, depending on the specific location and time of year, can have average temperatures ranging between -22 and 86 degrees F.
Though it is known for having deciduous forests, this biome also has plenty of evergreen trees, such as pines and spruces.
This biome boasts a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Plants such as wild blue lupine grow well in young, open forests but eventually die off as trees grow and shade out many smaller plants. Other plants grow well in the shady depths of mature forests.
Some of the many creatures that live in this biome include raccoons, beavers, squirrels, bears, frogs, toads, turtles, woodpeckers, hawks, turkeys, dragonflies, moths, and, of course, a variety of butterflies.
Check out this video to learn more about the temperate deciduous forest biome:
How Has the Karner Blue Butterfly Adapted to Its Environment?
Karner blue butterflies are not very adaptable; this is why their numbers have decreased over time. As their native environment has changed, they have not been able to change with it.
As mentioned, Karner blue larvae only eat the leaves of the wild blue lupine plant. Though this plant may thrive in young, open forest regions and pine barrens, it will eventually be replaced in an area due to succession as trees and larger plants choke it out.
Though wild blue lupine is not considered endangered, the Karner blue butterflies appear to have a harder time moving around with it as it crops up in one location, lives and dies, then appears in a different location. Karner blues rarely travel more than 600 yards from where they were born, so they are not able to find other patches of wild blue lupine that may exist at greater distances than that.
What’s more, their survival depends on a thick and consistent snowpack to keep their overwintering eggs dormant until the proper time. Climate change can lead to warmer winters, and even an unseasonable period of warm weather during winter can lead to eggs hatching early, which in turn can lead to the caterpillars starving because the wild blue lupine has not begun to grow yet.
Even localized weather changes can wipe out entire populations of these fragile butterflies.
Periods of drought can cause wild blue lupine and nectaring plants to die off, in turn leading to the death of both caterpillars and adult butterflies. Severe weather such as storms and extreme or unseasonable cold can damage host and nectar plants, in turn threatening the survival of the butterflies and caterpillars that depend on them.
Karner blue butterflies live in the temperate deciduous forest biome of eastern North America. They only live in small, isolated pockets of this biome, as they are fragile butterflies that have struggled to adapt to changes in their environment over time, so there are only a few of them left.