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Find
where Karners are typically located in Wisconsin
Access
Karner HCP guidelines and management protocols
Submit
partner annual reports
Contact information
For information on the Karner blue butterfly program, contact:
Becky Roth
KBB HCP Coordinator
608-220-6209

Tips for identifying Karner blue butterflies

The Karner blue butterfly, Lycaeides melissa samuelis, is in the Lycaenidae (gossamer-winged butterfly) family.

Size and markings

The adult Karner blue butterfly is about the size of a nickel--with a wingspan of about an inch--and it can be identified by the bands of orange spots on the underside edge of its wings. The top sides of the male's wings are deep sky blue, while those of the female are darker blue and brown with orange spots on the edges of both hind wings. The dorsal sides of the males' wings are deep sky blue with black margins bordered by a white band, while those of the female are darker blue and brown with orange crescents on the edges of both hind wings.

Both sexes can be identified by the bands of orange crescents on the undersides of both the fore and hind wings. Karner blues are the only small blue butterflies that have orange crescents on the undersides of both the fore- and hind-wings. Positive identification of a Karner blue requires that you observe these orange crescents on the underwings of the butterfly.

Comparing Karner blue with other blue butterflies

Thumbnails link to larger images.
  Karner blue Eastern-tailed blue Spring azure Silvery blue
Male Karner blue - Male Eastern-tailed Blue - Male Image Not Available Silvery blue - Male
Female Karner blue - Female Eastern-tailed blue - Female Image Not Available Silvery blue - Female
Underwing Karner blue - Underwing Eastern-tailed blue - Underwing Spring azure - Underwing Silvery blue - Underwing
Occurrence of adult phase Two flight periods, one beginning in late May and the second in mid-July.Three broods, starting in April and continuing through October.Prominent in early spring and persists throughout the growing season.Present at the same time as Karner blue first flight.
UnderwingsOrange crescents along the margins of both the fore and hind underwings.Two orange crescents on the underwings. No orange crescents. Underwings are light blue or gray with irregular black spots. No orange crescents. Underwings are gray with a row of black dots.
Dorsal wings Male's dorsal side is light blue with black margins bordered by a white band. Dorsal side of female is dark blue to brown with orange crescents along edges of hind wings. Orange crescents on edges of dorsal side of both hind wings. Key feature is presence of a small tail on each of the hind wings.Dorsal view looks very similar to male Karner blue.Dorsal view looks very similar to male Karner blue.
HabitatAssociated with sand and brush prairies, and oak barrens where wild lupine is present. Can occur in Karner blue habitat but also uses variety of habitats including mesic prairies, wetlands and old fields. Associated with woodlands, fields and wetlands.Found near open woodlands and open areas.

Signs of Karner blue

Karner feeding damage on lupine leaf
Karner feeding damage on lupine leaf
Karner feeding damage on lupine leaf
Karner feeding damage on lupine leaf
Feeding damage not from Karner blues
Feeding damage not from Karner blues
Feeding damage not from Karner blues
Feeding damage not from Karner blues
Karner larvae
Karner larvae
Karner larvae
Karner larvae

Plant identification

Common nectar species for the Karner blue butterfly [PDF]

Last revised: Tuesday September 29 2015