The Karner blue butterfly Lycaeides melissa samuelis is an endangered species residing in the Great Lakes and northeastern regions of the United States. Increased canopy cover is a major factor implicated in the decline of the Karner blue at many locales. Therefore, we examined how the butterfly's behavior varied with canopy cover. Adult males at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore used habitat under canopy openings for nearly 90% of their activities; females used openings and shaded areas more equally. The frequency of oviposition on the sole host plant, wild lupine Lupinus perennis, was highest under 30-60% canopy cover even though lupine was more abundant in more open areas. Larvae fed preferentially on larger lupine plants and on lupines in denser patches. However, lupines were generally larger in the shade. Therefore, shade-related trade-offs existed between lupine abundance and distribution of larval feeding and oviposition. Also, heterogeneity of shading by sub-canopy woody vegetation was greater at oviposition sites than at sites where lupine did not grow. Given the importance of shade heterogeneity, a mixture of canopy openings and shade, on a scale similar to daily adult movement range, should be beneficial for this butterfly.
Additional publication details
Habitat use by the endangered Karner blue butterfly in oak woodlands: The influence of canopy cover