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The Pine Bush Project:
The Karner Blue Butterfly

By Megan and Christian, students at FMS

Karner Blue butterflyThe Karner Blue Butterfly is currently an endangered species. Public funds go toward research to try to help the butterfly. If the winter snow pack line moves any farther forward, the Karner Blue can become a global warming victim, and become extinct.

There are many reasons why the Karner Blue Butterfly has become endangered. One is because of the lack of the Blue Lupine.

Blue Lupine
The Karner Blue Butterfly needs Blue Lupine to survive. The larva (caterpillars) of the Karner Blue eats lupine leaves--it is the only thing they can eat. After feeding from lupine plants for 1-2 weeks, the larva forms the chrysalis. Without the blue lupine, the Karner Blue Butterfly couldn't survive. To insure that the Karner Blue has enough Blue Lupine, the Pine Bush Preserve Commission is cleaning away non-native plants and has planted more of the lupine plants.

Other reasons include the development of land in the Pine Bush, farming, and the lack of fire. Without fire clearing open spaces, the Blue Lupine cannot grow, and without that, the caterpillars cannot live. Also car exhaust and pollution from developing the land can be blamed for the loss of more butterflies.

Disruption of the Karner Blue
Within the last 10-15 years, the population of the Karner Blue Butterfly has decreased 95%. One factor of this is that Route 155 disrupts the movement of the Karner Blue Butterfly. Route 155 cuts through 2700+ acres of the Pine Bush. The segmentation of their habitat is a major reason why their population has decreased. The Karner Blue still exists in Clifton Park, the Pine Bush, New Hampshire and Michigan.
 
Stages of the Karner Blue Butterfly
There are 4 main stages of the Karner Blue Butterfly. The first stage is the egg. The Karner Blue has a very unique Life Cycle in that is has two broods. The eggs are laid in May and August; females leave the eggs on the bottom of a Blue Lupine leaf. First brood eggs last about 3 months because they live through the winter under snow and in the ground. Second brood eggs last about 7-8 days.

There are many unique traits about the Karner Blue. Its egg is only about 1 mm in diameter. The egg is a pale greenish white, and is hard to see because it is almost transparent. Its larva is about 3/4 of an inch long at maturity. It is green with a vertical green dorsal stripe with light side stripes.

The caterpillar is greenish, and is about 1.5 inches long. It can only eat the Blue Lupine plant until the pupil stage. Also the pupa is 3/4 of an inch and pale pea green. The adult male butterfly is blue and the female is blue on the outside of her wing, getting browner as you move inward towards the body. It is about 1 inch long (wings fully expanded).

The Karner Blue lives in adult form for 1-2 weeks. The second brood of the Karner Blue hatch in about 1 week. Adult Karner Blues are found in patches of lupine during daylight.

 

Picture done by Jess of Web Page Design Club (June, 2008 )

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