The Karner blue, a sapphire-colored butterfly with a wingspan barely an
inch across, was extirpated from New Hampshire less than a decade ago. Many
people and organizations have been working to bring back the Karner blue --
New Hampshire's official state butterfly -- and to restore pine barrens
habitat, the only place where the butterfly can survive. A variety of
partners are involved in the restoration efforts, including N.H. Fish and
Game, the N.H. Army National Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the
city of Concord and others.
This is the fifth year that Karners are being raised in captivity and
released into restored pine barrens habitat at the Karner Blue Butterfly
Conservation Easement near the Concord Municipal Airport. The captive
rearing program has resulted in a small but growing wild butterfly
population; last year, eggs, larvae and adults were all observed in the
release area in the Heights section of Concord. Core funding for captive
rearing and habitat restoration comes from the N.H. Army National Guard,
the moose Conservation License Plate and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Wildlife biologists from N.H. Fish and Game expect to release hundreds of
captive-reared Karner blue butterflies into the restored habitat in June.
The second of two annual broods will emerge in July.
The Karner blue butterfly has extremely particular habitat requirements;
wild lupine is the immature Karner's sole food source, and pine barrens are
the only place where wild lupine grows. Very little pine barrens habitat
remains in New Hampshire, most of it having been cleared or paved for other
uses. The original pine barrens were maintained by natural disturbances,
including fire, insect and weather damage; today, heavy machinery and
controlled burns -- one of which is planned for next week -- are used to
replicate these occurrences.
Concord schoolchildren and teachers are also helping out with habitat
restoration efforts. N.H. Fish and Game and the National Wildlife
Federation, supported by a Disney Foundation grant, have been working with
teachers and their students to plant wild lupine seed and raise the
seedlings in the classroom, then transplant them in the easement. Last
year, wild-born Karners were seen on the lupine that the students raised
The public is welcome to visit the easement at the end of Chenell Drive in
East Concord, where a trailhead kiosk describes the Karner restoration
project. Visitors are asked to try to not step on any wild lupine plants --
there may be Karner blue butterfly larvae on them.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's
marine, fish and wildlife resources and their habitats.