Karner Blue Butterfly Conservation Program

Karner Blue Butterfly Conservation Program

The endangered Karner blue butterfly

Contact Information
Louis Perrotti Director of Conservation Programs
(401) 785-3510 ext. 335
lperrotti@rwpzoo.org

In 2010, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recognized this project with a Significant Achievement Award for North American conservation. This project represents RWP Zoo’s hands-on contribution to the AZA’s National Butterfly Conservation Initiative.

The Endangered Karner Blue Butterfly
(Lycaeides melissa samuelis)

Karner blues historically were found in 12 northern states and in Ontario, Canada. They now can be found only in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, New York, and Wisconsin.

Like most endangered butterflies, Karner blues are victims of industrial and agricultural development. The Karner blue butterfly must lay its eggs on wild lupine plants (Lupinus perennis) because that is the only plant the hatched larvae can eat. The lupine can only thrive in pine barrens with dry sandy and acidic soil, but those habitats have largely been destroyed. Now the lupine itself is endangered and without it, the Karner blue larvae cannot survive.

Twenty years ago there were an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Karner blue butterflies living in pine barrens in Concord, New Hampshire. By 1995, that number had plummeted to less than 50 because of the coinciding decline of wild lupine plants in the area due to development that destroyed its native habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) hatched a plan to restore the pine barren habitat and expand wild lupine populations in order to support a healthy Karner Blue butterfly population.