Last week while we were on a walk around our lake, this endangered species posting caught my eye and I thought I’d find out what I could. As usual, I may be “the last one to the party” on this topic. I’ve been known to be living under a rock when it comes to certain things. (Feel free to ask me about Fall’s hemlines and the proliferation of sequins for day wear and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.) But in the event that there may be someone who hasn’t heard, let me tell you what I know about this little blue butterfly.
The Karner Blue Butterfly is an endangered species and our area of Wisconsin is one of the few remaining areas that provides the habitat they need to survive. They were put on the Federal endangered species list in 1992. They produce two generations of butterflies each year, with a hatch in April, appearing as butterflies in mid-May and a hatch in June appearing in July. The tough part for the caterpillars is finding wild lupine leaves for food. They only munch on wild lupine, which typically grow in disturbed ditches or at the edge of wooded areas. Historically, these areas were naturally created by wildfires and the foraging of large animals. Our modern world has now allowed for the lupine to grow and go wild as it used to in years past. But we can grow more wild lupine to help the little guys along. Come on, who doesn’t want more butterflies? We (Dave) has actually collected seeds of wild lupine in our ditches and been able to get them to grow on the edgy parts of our property. At the time, we just loved the plant and wanted more of them around us. Little did we know we were providing important habitat. More flowers, more butterflies – all good! You may see the cocoons of the previous years eggs hanging on lupine plants in the Spring. The winter snow is actually an insulator for them.
If you look closely at the sign, you’ll see that Polk Burnett Electric posted it. After going to their website, I see that they are taking measures to make sure they preserve and encourage the habitat for these rare creatures. It’s easy to take something for granted when you have an abundance right in your backyard, but the reality is that this is the only place (with the exception of a few very small pockets elsewhere in the country) where the butterflies live. Who knew?