Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides Melissa samuelis)

Karner blue butterfly (c) Marquis Walsh/NHFG

Karner blue butterfly by Marquis Walsh (above) and Lindsay Webb (marked adult, below). At bottom - controlled burn of pine barrens habitat by Dan Hayward.

Karner blue butterfly (c) Lindsay Webb/NHFG

Controlled burn at pine barrens (c) Dan Hayward/NHFG

NH Conservation Status: Endangered

Federal Status: Endangered

Karner blue butterflies are legally protected in New Hampshire. Possession and take (which includes harming, harassing, injuring and killing) is illegal.

Distribution: Restricted to the Concord Pine Barrens

Description: 1" wing span. Females tend to be slightly larger than males. The upper sides of male wings are blue with a black edge and white outer fringe. The upper sides of female wings are darker blue, black, or gray with a row of orange crescents on the hind wing and a black edge with a white outer fringe. Both males and females have similar coloration on the under side of the wings. It is gray to light tan with black dots and orange crescents near the edge.

Commonly Confused Species: Spring azure and summer azure are commonly confused with Karner blues, but azures are pale blue with some black or gray dots or edges, with no orange. Eastern tailed blues are very similar to Karner blues but the biggest indicators are the tails, although the tails may be short or missing on worn individuals.

Habitat: Dependent on Pine Barrens with wild lupine

Life History: Eggs hatch in early to mid April. Larvae, or caterpillars, only eat the leaves of wild lupine. Adults are in flight from the end of May through June. Flying adults live on average for 3-4 days, but sometimes up to 3 weeks. Adults lay eggs on wild lupine or grasses near lupine. Eggs laid by these adults hatch almost immediately and the second brood adults are in flight during early to mid July. The eggs laid by this second brood overwinter on the vegetation under the snow. Since Karner blue larvae are obligate feeders of wild lupine, it is crucial that Pine Barrens experience periodic disturbance to knock back the succession of the vegetation to create sunny openings for the wild lupine to establish.

Distribution map: Click here for a map showing the towns where this species is reported to occur in NH.

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