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Karner Blue Lycaeides melissa samuelis


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Karner Blue
© Hollingsworth/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Family: Lycaenidae, Gossamer-wing Butterflies view all from this family

Description The Karner Blue, Lycaeides melissa samuelis, is a small, blue butterfly found in small areas of New Jersey, the Great Lakes region, southern New Hampshire, and the Capital District region of New York. The butterfly, whose lifecycle depends on the wild blue lupine flower (Lupinus perennis), is classified as an endangered species. In May 2000, the Canadian Species at Risk Act listed the Karner Blue as being locally extinct in Canada. This subspecies of Lycaeides melissa was described by novelist Vladimir Nabokov. It is sometimes placed in the genus Plebejus.

Local conservation efforts, concentrating on replanting large areas of blue lupine which have been lost to development (and to fire suppression, which destroys the open, sandy habitat required by blue lupine), are having modest success at encouraging the butterfly's repopulation. The Karner Blue is the official state butterfly of New Hampshire. The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin is home to the world's largest population of Karner Blues, which benefit from its vast area of savannah and extensive lupine.

The Karner Blue was first identified and named by novelist and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov. The name originates from Karner, New York (located half-way between Albany and Schenectady) in the Albany Pine Bush), where it was first discovered. Lupine blooms in late May. There are two generations of Karner Blues per year. The first in late May to mid June. The second from mid-July to mid-August.

In the novel Pnin, Nabokov describes a score of Karner Blues without naming them.

Dimensions 7/8-1 1/4" (22-32mm).

Endangered Status The Karner Blue, a subspecies of the Melissa Blue, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Like so many endangered species, this butterfly has been the victim of loss of habitat to humans. Each type of butterfly relies on particular plants for feeding and laying eggs on. The Karner Blue can't live without Wild Lupine, a plant that has become increasingly rare in the eastern U.S. Development has overtaken the lupine's habitat in many areas, and fire suppression affects its habitat in others, allowing forests to encroach and shade out the lupines and other meadow plants. The Karner Blue declined alongside the lupine, and then its small populations were further reduced by collectors, who wanted the rare and beautiful butterfly for their collections. While recovery plans are being drawn up for the Karner Blue, the butterfly receives protection in several federal and state preserves.

Habitat Forests & woodlands, Meadows & fields, Alpine & subalpine habitats.

Range New England, Plains, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes.