NABOKV-L post 0015445, Fri, 31 Aug 2007 09:25:53 -0400

Author and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov ...
[image: The Nature Conservancy - Protecting nature, Preserving


[image: Rhapsody in Blue: Karner blue butterfly - butterfly
Photo Essay: Karner Blue Butterfly] <javascript:;> *Digital photo essay:
*Watch a Karner Blue
emerge from its chrysalis <javascript:;>
(new window, Flash plug-in required) Karner Blue Butterfly Facts

- Author and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov gave the blue
butterfly, *Lycaeides
melissa samuelis*, its scientific and popular names. He called it
Karner after a hamlet in New York where it was abundant.
- The sexes are distinguished by their hue of blue (males are bright,
females dark) and by the presence of orange crescents on top (females, top,
have them; males, second from top, do not).
- The butterfly with a 1-inch wingspan flutters for just one week in
- As caterpillars, the Karner blues rely solely on lupine for their
survival; as butterflies, however, they feed on a profusion of flowering

Go Deeper Wild Lupine and the Karner Blue in

See how we've restored this butterfly's only food source through prescribed
burning and tree
Out of the Blue in New

Discover how fire and bulldozers are bringing the Karner blue back in the
Empire State<>
[image: Rhapsody in Blue: Karner blue butterfly - butterfly
Christine Mlot

For most of the year, the Karner blue butterfly exists as a tiny, dimpled
white egg. But as winter days lengthen into spring, the life inside begins
to stir, and soon a pale green caterpillar emerges. It feeds, then cloaks
itself in a chrysalis. And then, for one brief week, the Karner blue is on
the wing.

Or, a wing and a prayer.

For decades, the butterfly with the fleeting appearance was on the verge of
becoming a fleeting species as its oak savannas and pine barrens
disappeared. Now, with efforts to restore its preferred habitat and raise
the butterflies in captivity, the Karner blue's future is decidedly more

The rare blue butterfly lives for the wild blue lupine. When Karner eggs
hatch in April, lint-sized caterpillars emerge to feed on the leaves of the
newly sprouted plant. Nothing else will do. And when the mature butterflies
are looking to lay eggs for a second brood, again, they've only got eyes for

Where the plant takes root, the butterflies usually follow. Lupine thrives
in sandy soil amid the sunny openings of pine barrens and oak savannas.
Once, fires created prime conditions for the lupine, sustaining butterfly
populations along a band hugging the Great Lakes from Minnesota to Maine.
But as fires were suppressed, brush took over the sunny spaces, and the
savannas' scattering of trees turned into dense forest lots. Or parking

[image: In the Mood for Lupine]

As the Karner's quest for lupine became increasingly quixotic, its own
numbers declined. In 1992 the federal government placed the butterfly on the
endangered species list.

Fifteen years later, the outlook for the Karner is no longer so blue. From
the pine barrens of upstate New York to the black oak savannas of northern
Indiana, hundreds of acres of lupine habitat have been restored and
reconnected, allowing the Karner to reclaim lost territory and allowing
conservationists to reintroduce it to its traditional fluttering grounds.

To see the Karner blue in spring is to see one of nature's most colorful—and
color-coordinated—spectacles. In May, as the blooms of the lupine begin to
unfold, so too do the Karners, turning the savannas into a rhapsody in every
shade of violet and blue.

But you've got to be quick, and a little bit lucky, to behold it. If the sun
doesn't cooperate and warm things up, the Karner blues won't fly at all.
Even if they do fly, the tiny butterflies —about the size of a
thumbnail—stay close to the ground, flitting among the wildflowers, sipping
nectar and moving pollen. Within a week or so, the improvised harmony comes
to an end: The lupine goes to seed; the butterflies start to look raggedy.

[image: Two-Part Harmony]And then they're gone.

In July another brood of Karner blues comes to life. While their blue-winged
flight is often more abundant, it's absent the blooming accompaniment. The
mood, less blue.

The little blue butterfly has long been a cause célèbre, and its comeback
has become a cause for celebration. Karner blue festivals have popped up
from New York to Wisconsin, and the Karner is the official butterfly of the
state of New Hampshire and the town of Queensbury, New York. The Department
of Natural Resources in Wisconsin even runs a seasonal hot line for reports
of Karners in flight.

As the savannas are restored, the return of the Karners provides the
finishing touch. Says Paul Labus of The Nature Conservancy in Indiana,
"Seeing them flying again makes everything look just right."

Search the archive:
Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies: