(Lycaeides melissa samuelis)
Where Can The Karner Blue Butterfly Be Found?
The Karner Blue Butterfly is an endangered species found in the Great Lakes region in the United
States. The Karner Blue can be found, close to us, here in Michigan City, at the Indiana Dunes
National Lakeshore. It can also be found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire,
and New York. Generally the Karner Blue is found in dry sandy areas with open woods and
clearings supporting wild blue lupine, which is essential for the life of this butterfly. This type of
habitat is usually associated with pitch pine/scrub oak or oak savannah communities that are
maintained by fire at an early stage of plant succession.
(Wild Blue Lupine)
What does it look like?
The Karner Blue is a small with a wingspan of about 1 inch. The Karner Blue’s body
consists of two forewings (front wings) and two hindwings (back wings). Males
generally look a little different from the females from the outside, but on the underside,
both males and females show a continuous band of orange crescents along the edges of
both wings and scattered black spots circled with white.
(Inner Wings of the Karner Blue Butterfly)
(Outer Wings Of The Karner Blue Butterfly)
The male’s inner wings are purplish-blue in color and lined with a black border around
(Male Karner Blue)
The female Karner Blue’s inner forewings are blue in the center fading outward into a
blackish color with a white border around the edged. The lower hind wings are also blue
and lined with a white border, but they have orange spots around the bottom edge of the
(Female Karner Blue)
For both the male and female Karner Blue have silvery-blue colored outer wings with
orange dots along the border of the both the forewings and hind wings. The silvery-blue
color is where the thorax and the abdomen are located.
Diet Of The Karner Blue:
Larvae eat wild blue lupine; adults eat nectar from plants such as the dogbane, New
Jersey tea, butterfly weed, horsemint, orange hawkweed, ox-eye-daisy and hairy
Species: Lycaeides melissa
Life Cycle: (To see detailed pictures and descriptions check out the link below!)
The process the Karner Blue undertakes during its development is known as
metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is a Greek word that means a transformation or change
in shape. This process is done in four different stages:
The four stages of the Karner Blue’s Lifecycle consist of:
1. The Egg
2. The larva (caterpillar)
3. The pupa (chrysalis)
4. The adult (butterfly)
Butterfly eggs have hard-ridged outer layers of shell that are known as chorion. The
Chorion is lined with a thin coating of wax that helps to prevent the egg from drying out
before the larva (caterpillar) has had time to fully develop. Each egg contains a number of
tiny funnel-shaped openings at one end that allows sperm to enter and fertilize the egg.
Females actually lay a lot of eggs at once due to the fact that very few eggs actually
develop into adults.
Out of these eggs hatch larvae or caterpillars. The job of the caterpillar is to basically eat.
They consume plant leaves and spend most of the natural life looking for food. As the
caterpillar grows it splits its skin and sheds it about 4 or 5 times. Food eaten at this time is
stored and used later as an adult. Caterpillars grow 100 times their size during this stage
of development. The larvae feed exclusively on the wild blue lupine leaves. Without blue
lupine, the Karner blue would not survive.
When the caterpillar stops eating and is full-grown, it attaches itself to a place where it
can “rest.” While “resting” the caterpillar forms what is known as a chrysalis (Pupa).
The chrysalis is a type of protective case that the caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis
from larva to the adult. On the outside the chrysalis doesn’t looks like too much, but
many changes take place to the pupa that we cannot see. Inside the internal systems
reorganize and transform themselves into adult butterflies. This stage can last from a few
weeks to a month.
The adult stage is the final stage in the metamorphosis process of the Karner Blue from
egg to butterfly. In this stage, the caterpillar is no longer a caterpillar, but a beautiful
butterfly that has developed wings and can fly!
Reproduction and Offspring:
The reproduction process takes place by the female Karner Blue laying eggs on the
underside of the blue lupine. The blue lupine plant is essential for the survival of the
Karner Blue. These eggs hatch in seven to eight days. Forty to fifty percent of the eggs
survive to the adult stage. Karner blue adults are nectar-feeders, aiding in the pollination
of a variety of wildflowers.
There are two generations of Karner Blue eggs that hatch each year. A single Karner Blue
female can lay up to eighty eggs. In April, the first group of caterpillar’s hatch from last
year’s eggs and the caterpillars feed only on the leaves of the lupine. In mid-May, the
caterpillars pupate and adult butterflies emerge out of their cocoons around late May or
Today’s Status Of The Karner Blue Butterfly:
Today, knowing that the Karner blue is on the endangered list, it is experiencing a huge
decline. This is primarily due to human activities such as agriculture, urbanization and
fire suppression. The sandy habitat essential to the blue lupine and Karner blue, occurs
mostly along river valleys and outwash plains. Because of the location and topography of
such areas, they have been heavily favored as settlement sites.
Extinctions of entire populations of the Karner blue have occurred around large urban
centers such as Chicago and New York City. Other populations, such as those in the
Albany Pine Bush, have been reduced both by habitat destruction from urbanization and
by loss of lupine through natural succession resulting from fire suppression. The most
intact populations remain in Saratoga County.