karner blue

Pierre A Plauzoles ae779 at lafn.org
Fri Feb 5 21:40:45 EST 1999

In a previous article, MWalker at gensym.com (Mark Walker) says:

>I don't have answers to all of your questions, as I am no expert on the life
>cycle of the Karner Blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis).  I have read of the
>relationship of the butterfly's larva with a species of ant (which feeds on
>larval secretions), but don't know to what extent the relationship is

It would not surprise me in the least should someone pipe up saying that 
the ants defend "their" caterpillars.  Their being a source of food would 
definitely warrant defense.

>The larval foodplant of L. melissa samuelis is indeed a Lupine, Wild Blue
>Lupine (L. perennis I believe), a species whose habitat is rapidly
>disappearing due to urban development, fire suppression, and agricultural
>clearing.  The range of the foodplant expands well beyond the few areas
>which sustain the declining populations of the Karner Blue, and so it's a
>bit of a mystery to me why the butterfly hasn't been able to expand it's
>range as well.  There must be some link to something else peculiar to the
>Pine and Oak sand barren habitats where the butterfly is found.  The two
>main areas outside of Wisconsin (I'm not too familiar with the status of the
>butterfly in the Great Lakes region) are just north of Albany, N.Y., and in
>a few pockets around Concord, N.H.  I tried in vain for several years to
>locate other populations in the areas between these two so-called
>strongholds.  I believe that the butterfly has also been extirpated from
>Ontario, Canada.
>As far as I know, the butterfly remains endangered.  Both the Albany and
>Concord locations continue to lose ground to development, although there are
>a few restoration projects in work in N.Y.

All of the above leads me to theorize that the ant populations might 
themselves be threatened and in decline, thereby threatening their 
ability to establish new colonies (I have heard - but I am not certain 
how true it is - that they may carry the butterfly's eggs as well as 
their own when a new colony is established).  If this is true, it could 
explain why the butterfly is not expanding into new territory despite the 
widespread availability of the larval host.  Not only that, but few and 
far between are those people who appreciate the role certain ants play in 
the lives of other insects, let alone the lives of the some of the smaller 
butterflies, such as the blues!
Pierre Plauzoles   ae779 at lafn.org
Canoga Park, California

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