Hunt for Karner Blue Butterflies at Sanctuary

Hunt for Karner Blue Butterflies at Sanctuary

Sometimes you want to do something different than follow a path through the woods. Maybe you want to create an adventure or a bit of a scavenger hunt for an endangered species. One of the good things about the late spring/summer season is the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly will be laying their eggs on the wild blue lupine plants during the Memorial Day weekend. Another 2-week lifecycle will be again in late June (weather depending).

 

Because of the cold spring, the Karner Blue’s first of two sightings is later than usual. One place with documented sightings is the Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary located on Spruce Avenue just south of Croton Drive (about 3 miles east of M-37). This 95-acre parcel owned by the Michigan Nature Association looks like an abandoned field with a few scattered trees. When look around, you will notice that it is one of the few places in Michigan with dry sand prairie and oak pine barrens which is a perfect habitat for the Karner Blue.

 

Make sure to wear sturdy shoes because it can be crunchy walking around especially with many prickly pear cacti dotting the landscape. The wispy Prairie Smoke flower is also blooming. To find the small butterflies that are about the size of a nickel, look for the lupin plant that is a shamrock-styled but with longer leaves. The lupin flowers look like purple cones and are just beginning to bloom. The Karner Blue will live for only two weeks to lay the eggs on the lupine plants because it is the only thing the caterpillar larvae will eat. These butterflies do not migrate like monarchs (but I did see the orange beauties there and other species). In fact, Karners don’t like to fly very far before landing and resting, according to the local sanctuary caretaker. They are easy to see when flying but can disappear into the foliage when they land.

 

This small butterfly was nearly extinct 25 years ago. They are making a comeback at least in Newaygo County due to increased plantings of the lupin plant and other areas devoted to preserving their habitat. It is also easy to tell the males from the females. Females are brown and orange, and the males have the pretty blue wings.

 

During the holiday weekend, this could be a unique activity to see an elusive endangered species. They have such intricate markings and with some stealth will pose for pictures after landing.

 

Please note: This sanctuary is open to the public but does not have a parking area or any facilities. Please plan accordingly. Parking is available along the edge of Spruce or 72ndStreet.

 

By Wendy Sinicki

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About The Author

Wendy Sinicki

Wendy Sinicki has been checking out the trails, paths and scenic dirt roads in Newaygo County since she was looking for a way to tire out her kids when they were toddlers. They are now out of college and she has more time to explore, but instead of running, she just walks. When not outside, she enjoys writing and reading.