We conducted a three-year mark-release-recapture study of the endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis Nabokov) at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to describe the butterfly's movement patterns and to assess seasonal changes in the Karner blue's population structure. Estimated mean Karner blue adult life span was less than 3.5 days. Populations exhibited protandry and about a 2:1 male:female sex ratio at population peak within a brood. Ranges, or maximum distances moved by individual butterflies, were typically less than 100 m. Maximum ranges were less than 1 km. These distances are similar to those reported for other lycaenid butterflies and from other studies of the Karner blue in the midwestern United States. At two sites, fewer than 2% of adults had ranges greater than 300 m, while at a third site 4.3% of adults had ranges greater than 300 m. Given typical subpopulation sizes these movement percentages suggest that few adults per generation will move between subpopulations separated by more than 300 m. Movement of individuals between subpopulation sites is important for maintaining genetic diversity within a metapopulation and for recolonizing areas following local extinctions. Therefore, prudent conservation planning should aim for a landscape with habitat patches suitable for Karner blue butterfly occupancy separated by less than 300 m.
Additional publication details
Movement patterns and population characteristics of the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore