The Karner blue butterfly is endangered and has basically disappeared from many areas where it used to be common. This butterfly has received numerous governmental protections over the past two to three decades, and the efforts that have been made to protect it may very well be what has kept it from going extinct. So, you may ask, why is it important to protect the Karner blue butterfly? What is being done to protect it? What can you do? Keep reading as we explore the answers to these and other questions you may have.
What You'll Learn Today
What is Being Done to Protect the Karner Blue Butterfly?
The Karner blue is a subspecies of the Melissa blue butterfly found in parts of the Great Lakes region of the U.S. While the Melissa blue is commonly found throughout North America, the Karner blue has a much smaller range and is endangered in large part due to habitat loss.
This small blue butterfly has been listed as federally endangered since 1992. This means that it has received federal protections for about two decades.
What’s more, the Karner blue is locally protected in some of its native regions as well.
But what do all of these national and local protections mean for the Karner blue? What is actually being done to keep it from going extinct?
Once a species is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” It is also illegal to trade or sell any members of the species.
While it is unlikely a small butterfly like the Karner blue would be subjected to any of these activities, its being listed as endangered offers a different kind of protection: an awareness of the threats it does face. Once people know that the Karner blue is endangered, they may begin to wonder why and to research what they can do to not only protect the current populations, but increase future numbers.
2. Habitat restoration and preservation
Karner blue caterpillars feed on only one type of plant, wild blue lupine. This plant only grows in oak savannas, pine barrens, and other woodland areas, and it invariably dies off after several years as the trees grow and provide too much shade for the lupine to thrive.
Wild blue lupine can also be destroyed as trees are cut down and its native habitat is taken over by development.
So, to preserve the Karner blue butterfly, efforts are being made to preserve its host plant. In some regions, the forests where wild blue lupine grows are protected by local and federal laws so it can’t be harmed.
In other places, efforts are being made to collect seeds from the wild blue lupine and start it growing in new areas.
Sometimes, the ecosystems where it is already growing are managed in such a way that it will not be shaded out over time. Larger and more aggressive plants are controlled so that they don’t take over the wild blue lupine, some trees may be trimmed or removed to allow for sufficient sunlight, and the lupine is encouraged to grow by receiving extra care and having seeds distributed throughout the region.
3. Captive raise and release
Karner blues are sometimes raised from eggs in captivity and released as adult butterflies into areas where they have been extirpated or are facing possible extirpation.
The benefit of this type of raise-and-release process is that more butterflies are likely to survive to adulthood when raised in captivity than if they had grown up in the wild. When the butterflies are released, the increased number of butterflies will potentially lead to an increased number of new eggs and larvae, which, in theory, will lead to greater populations of butterflies in the wild.
Why Should We Save the Karner Blue Butterfly?
Every creature in an ecosystem is important. As stated by the National Wildlife Federation:
Losing even a single species can have disastrous impacts on the rest of the ecosystem, because the effects will be felt throughout the food chain. From providing cures to deadly diseases to maintaining natural ecosystems and improving overall quality of life, the benefits of preserving threatened and endangered species are invaluable.
The Karner blue butterfly has been described as “conservation-dependent,” meaning it is unlikely to survive without the efforts we make to sustain it. For this reason, some might say that it’s our duty to protect the Karner blue.
How Does the Karner Blue Butterfly Facilitate the Environment?
The efforts to protect the Karner blue butterfly, in turn, lead to efforts to protect its natural environment. By saving the Karner blue, we can also save woodland areas and pine barrens that would have otherwise been threatened by development.
The more these natural environments are protected, the more species dependent on them will also be protected. And who knows; over time, the Karner blue may even begin to make a comeback.
Check out this video to learn more about some of the efforts being made to restore the Karner blue and its natural habitat.
How Can We Save the Karner Blue Butterfly?
If you live in an area with Karner blues, or perhaps an area where they have all but disappeared, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to bring them back. Is there anything individual people can do to save the Karner blue?
According to the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, one of the best things to do is to get involved with local cooperative efforts to restore these butterflies and their habitats. These efforts depend on support from local citizens and are frequently in need of volunteers.
If you were to volunteer at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, for example, you might be able to help with collecting wild blue lupine seeds, planting them in new places, and even helping to manage local habitats and ecosystems.
If there are no opportunities for volunteering in your area, one thing you could do is learn to grow wild blue lupine in your yard. You can order the seeds online, and the plants are fairly easy to grow as long as you understand the proper growing conditions.
The Karner blue butterfly is listed as an endangered species and is both locally and federally protected in many areas. It is important to protect this little butterfly from extinction because it is a valuable part of its ecosystem and, by saving it, we may also be able to save its natural environment.