Department of Environmental Conservation

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Watchable Wildlife: Karner Blue Butterfly

Did You Know?

Two Karner Blues feeding on an orange flower
Karner blue butterfly - Lycaeides melissa samuelis
Female: top, Male: bottom

  • Karner blue caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of the wild blue lupine, a perennial wildflower dependent on periodic fires or mowing for its survival.
  • Karner blue populations have seriously declined due to habitat loss.
  • The Karner blue was put on the New York State endangered species list in 1977 and on the Federal endangered species list in 1992.
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What to Watch for:


A small butterfly - wingspan of about one inch. Three other butterflies might be mistaken for the karner blue: spring azure, silvery blue, and Eastern tailed-blue.


Males: Upper surface of all wings is a deep violet-blue fringed with white.
Females: Upper surface of all wings is a dusky brownish-blue with orange spots near the edge of the hindwings.

For males and females, the underside of the wing is pale silver with white-ringed black spots and rows of bright orange and blue markings near the edge of the hindwings.

The larval stage (caterpillar) is pea green and covered with very fine hairs.

Where to Watch:

The Karner blue is found only in dry, sandy areas with open woods and clearings that support the wild blue lupine. Pitch pine and scrub oak are the common tree species in this habitat. In New York State, populations are restricted to the Hudson Valley sand belt which extends from the Albany Pine Bush north to the Glens Falls area.

While the caterpillars feed only on wild blue lupine leaves, the adults feed on the nectar of several flowering plants.

Watch a clip about Karner Blue Butterfly and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

Be Careful:
Remember to stay on official trails when walking through Karner blue habitat to avoid crushing the lupine and caterpillars. Sometimes adults may land on people. Walk slowly, stop and take a good look around, and check your shoes and pant legs for visiting Karner blues.

When to Watch:

In mid-May or early June the adult butterflies emerge from the chrysalis. A second generation of adult butterflies appears in July.

The Best Place to See the Karner Blue Butterfly:

Albany Pine Bush Preserve