An old friend is coming home to the Oak Openings Region.
Beginning the late 1980s this little guy could no longer be found in the state of Ohio. The Karner Blue's habitat had been destroyed by residential and commercial land development.
The lack of natural disturbance, like wildfires also has not helped. Fires help to control overgrowth of woodlands and prairie and encourages native plants like wild lupine and other prairie species to propagate naturally.
Basically the wild lupine disappeared and the butterfly went along with it. Today the Karner Blue is federally endangered.
The Karner Blue is generally associated with oak savannas, wild lupines, prairie grasses, and nectar plants such as butterfly weed. All of these are characteristic of the rare Oak Openings Region here in Northwest Ohio.
The butterfly is totally dependant on Wild Lupine. The Karner Blue hatches in April and the caterpillar feeds exclusively on lupine plants.
The adult butterflies feed on nectar from prairie plants through June and lay their eggs on wild lupine plants in July. Without Wild Lupine there is no Karner Blue Butterfly.
In May 1998 female Karner blue's were collected from the wild. This was done in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the Toledo Zoological Gardens.
Larvae were raised for reintroduction in Northwest Ohio. The Karner blue larvae were released on a portion of restored habitat on The Nature Conservancy's Kitty Todd Preserve in Lucas County.
The project has been a big success. Today the population of Karner Blues is growing at Kitty Todd. It is actually spreading to other parts of the preserve. The plan is to now introduce the butterfly to different parts of the Oak Openings Region such as Oak Openings Preserve.
The best times to see the Karner Blue are during their two "flight periods" of May-June and July-August at Kitty Todd. Blue Weekend is held every May at Kitty Todd when the Lupine is in full bloom and hopefully the Karner Blue is being friendly.
The Karner blue butterfly has a wingspan of about one inch, roughly the size of a postage stamp. The upper surface of the male is blue with a black edge and white outer margin.
The female is similar but more brown or grayish in color The female also has a row of dark spots with orange crescents along the wing margins.
The underside of both is similar. It is slate gray with several marginal rows of orange and black spots.