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Karner Blue Butterfly

The Karner Blue Butterfly

The Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) was listed as an endangered species in 1992 because of habitat loss and loss of the flowering plant lupine, of which this animal depends on for its life cycle.  This butterfly is a symbol of the Oak Openings Region and was last seen in Ohio in 1988 but was reintroduced ten years later in 1998.  The Toledo Zoo is working to protect these butterflies by completing population counts and estimates in particular habitats in an effort to assist in conservation efforts in Michigan.  Toledo Zoo staff conduct population counts several times in the spring because that is when the butterflies are in their adult form. Biologists at the Toledo Zoo also do vegetation analyses on the habitat the Karner blue butterflies are occupying to assist in management strategies.  The Zoo works in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Toledo Area Metroparks.

A male Karner blue butterfly.

Wild lupine, a flowering plant the Karner blue butterfly caterpillars use for food.

A female Karner blue. Note the orange on the inside of the wing.

The purple flowers of lupine which typically bloom in late May.  Karner blue butterflies are dependent on wild lupine because they lay their eggs on the plant and the caterpillars exclusively eat the leaves of lupine.

There are two generations of Karner blue butterflies per year. The first generation ecloses in late May to mid June and the second generation ecloses from mid-July to mid-August.  The eggs laid by Karner blues overwinter and hatch in mid to late April.