The Karner blue butterfly was proclaimed New Hampshire's state butterfly in 1992—and then, all too soon, there were none.
Our state butterfly declined to the point of statewide extinction. Today, after a decade of restoration efforts, July brings eager expectations of Karner blues taking wing. Most wildlife species are generalists as far as food goes; not so the Karner blue. The female lays her eggs on or near wild lupine and the emerging caterpillars feed on lupine leaves exclusively.
Wild lupine requires very specific growing conditions found only in the state's disappearing pine barrens: sandy soils and sunny openings among scrub oak and pitch pine.Most of New Hampshire's pine barrens stretched along the Merrimack River. And most have been lost to development.
Alas, the endangered Karner blue butterfly depends on an equally endangered habitat. Recovery efforts focus on some 300 acres of remnant pine barrens in Concord. Led by New Hampshire Fish & Game, restoration includes raising and releasing butterflies—over 2,000 last year. The goal is true wild Karner blues, able to survive on their own. Those taking flight in July are the second brood of the year.Their eggs overwinter to become the first brood that takes flight in late May.
Reintroduction has many funding partners and many, many volunteers, including Concord schoolchildren who raised and transplanted 400 wild lupine plants last year. I can't think of a better way for children to learn the fragile connections that make up the wild world. Picture their delight in witnessing delicate blue butterfly nectaring on delicate blue wildflower.
If you, too, would like to see Karner blues, check the Something Wild page at NHPR.org for directions to the restoration site.
Script by Francie Von Mertens.
Directions to Karner Blue Butterfly Trail, Concord, New Hampshire
93 North to Exit 13, take a right off exit (93 south to exit 13 take left off exit), and then first left onto Old Turnpike Road. Go straight through the light (airport will be on your right, army base on left). Take right onto Chenell Drive. End at the Karner Blue restoration site and trails.