Usually when people think of endangered species they think of big animals like elephants, gorillas, tigers, leopards, pandas and the like. Most of these animals are endangered because they require a lot of habitat to survive and as man has expanded that habitat has shrunk. However not all endangered species are large. Meet the Karner Melissa blue butterfly. This small butterfly, it has a wingspan of only about an inch, was added to the U.S. Federal Endangered Species list back in 1992 because it too s suffering from habitat loss.
The Karner blue is a subspecies of the Melissa Blue which is found in the great lakes region. Unlike the other Melissa blue, the larva or caterpillar of the Karner Melissa Blue will only eat the leaves of the wild lupine plant. Unfortunately the amount of wild lupine growing around the Great Lakes has been decreasing and consequently so has Karner blue population. Wild lupine grows in sandy soil in open spaces. Much of this space has been taken over by man for cultivation or urban sprawl. Other suitable habitat, that is not directly destroyed by people, often becomes quickly over grown. With out natural disturbances, such as fire, forests over run the fields making the habitat unsuitable for the lupine to grow. Since it is on the Endangered Species list the DNR in most of the Great Lakes States have begun to manage land to make it more Karner friendly. This is especially true in Wisconsin where the majority of the Karner population resides. I photographed these Karners at Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin.