Endangered Karner Blue Butterfly Population Boom
July 14, 2020
Big news about a little insect! The Karner blues at the Albany Pine Bush are experiencing something of a population explosion.
“The numbers of butterflies we are seeing this month is unlike anything previously documented in the preserve.” ~Amanda Dillon, Field Ecologist & Entomologist
By Neil Gifford, Conservation Director
ALBANY, NY- The population of endangered Karner blue butterflies at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve is experiencing something of a population explosion, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission (Commission) announced today. Driven to the brink of extinction by habitat loss, the species was federally listed as endangered in 1992. Local conservation efforts helped grow the Pine Bush population from a few hundred at that time to more than 3,000 in 2013 - the minimum recovery threshold established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Driven by science, the Commission’s programs of controlled burning, forest thinning, restoration seeding and environmental education have helped the Karner population remain above 7,000 for the last seven years. While the current population size cannot be calculated until the season has ended, staff report counting hundreds of butterflies on their surveys at sites throughout the preserve.
Field Ecologist and Entomologist, Amanda Dillon, who has been conducting annual surveys since 2010, said “The numbers of butterflies we are seeing this month is unlike anything previously documented in the preserve.”
“In a laboratory, protected from weather, predation and disease, we have seen that Karners have a high reproductive capacity, with individual females successfully producing hundreds of offspring,” said Conservation Director, Neil Gifford.“ Conditions in the wild are seldom that perfect, but every once in a while things can line up, and that’s what we believe we are witnessing in the preserve right now,” he added.
The quarter-sized Karner blue butterfly was identified in the 1940s by novelist Vladimir Nabokov at the Pine Bush in the New York hamlet of Karner. The USFWS estimates that when the species was protected as endangered 28 years ago, the range-wide population had declined by up to 99 percent.
“The Albany Pine Bush proudly protects and preserves one of the last remaining populations of the endangered Karner blue butterfly in addition to acres of land,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. “As a result of the Pine Bush’s expertise and careful hard work, the Karner blue butterfly is seeing a dramatic increase in population – an incredible environmental and scientific accomplishment. I look forward to seeing the Karner blue and its returning population on my next visit to the Pine Bush and continuing to support the incredible work of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and its staff!”
“Thanks to our key partners at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the critical support we receive from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, the Commission continues to build the preserve, manage the world’s best remaining example of an inland pitch pine-scrub oak barrens, and offer truly unique recreational and educational opportunities”, said Commission Executive Director Christopher Hawver. He added, “With so many butterflies, now is a perfect time to visit the 20 miles of trails at the preserve.”
CLICK HERE FOR A KARNER BLUE FACT SHEET
CLICK HERE FOR A HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTO OF KARNER BLUE BUTTERFLIES
CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO OF FIELD ECOLOGIST & ENTOMOLOGIST AMANDA DILLON WITH BUTTERFLY COUNTING EQUIPMENT
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