Endangered butterfly thriving in Wisconsin, volunteers sought to conduct surveys

A Karner Blue Butterfly rests on a wild lupine in Wisconsin
A Karner Blue Butterfly rests on a wild lupine in Wisconsin(Chelsea Weinzinger)
Published: May. 6, 2021 at 1:31 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - They are one of nature’s most beautiful insects, but since the early 1990′s the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly has been in steep decline across North America.

Except for parts of Wisconsin.

“They’re actually locally abundant in our area, so we’re kind of lucky in that sense that we do have quite a few populations, and so a really important thing we like to focus on is monitoring those populations,” says DNR Karner Recovery Coordinator Chelsea Weinzinger.

She adds that there’s only one host plant -- wild lupine -- that the butterfly’s larvae can eat. That wild lupine tends to grow in sandy soils, which makes Waupaca, Waushara and parts of Oconto and Menominee counties prime Karner habitat.

“Wisconsin has the most,” says Weinziner of the number of Karners in Wisconsin.

And it’s not even close, thanks in part to collaboration between the state and private sector.

“One thing we have in the state is a habitat conservation plan and this has been a huge help in providing protocols for companies to follow, so if you need to do some work in an area where Karners might occur, you follow specific protocols so you’re doing minimal impact to the species and that’s definitely having a good impact on the species itself,” says Weinziner.

Weinzinger says the Karner has two flight periods, the first is in late May and early June, and the second in July and August.

With the state’s Karner population actually on the rise, the DNR is looking for volunteers to conduct roadside surveys to gather data.

“We’re looking for visiting multiple sites over repeat years and you can do as many or as little site visits as you want and we’re keeping it open to the volunteers choosing their sites closest to them,” says Weinzinger.

Information on how to volunteer, identify Karners, and survey for them can be found at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/endangeredresources/karner

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