Gardeners are enablers. When we put plants into the ground to beautify our spaces, we enable the wildlife around us to build homes, feed themselves and their young, stopover for a rest on a long journey, or simply feel comfortable passing through.
Wildflowers are like the invitation to an ecosystem party. Many, if not most, guests are pretty neutral when it comes to food. They aren’t picky and will go for the “generic” pollen and nectar. Some, however, rely on specific plants to survive. They are the gluten-, lactose-, and peanut-free guests at the party. Unfortunately, these guests can’t bring their own meals: you must provide them.
We talked about monarchs a few weeks back but did you know there are other butterflies that rely on specific host plants for survival?
Take the Karner blue for example. This small, inch long butterfly is easy to recognize with its brilliant blue wings edged with a lighter fringe of pale blue or white. With its wings spread open, you can see the orange and black detailing that lines the bottom of each hindwing (on the females). Closed wings will reveal a much lighter blue or grey wing colour with spots of black and orange at the edges of both sets of wings.
Now, there is a little bit of controversy where Karner blues are concerned but most experts agree that this particular butterfly relies solely on the wild lupine as a host plant. I should specify that it is the larvae (caterpillars) that rely on the wild lupine. Like the monarch caterpillar needs milkweed, the Karner blue needs lupine.
And like the monarch, numbers are dwindling. Argiculture, housing developments, and chemicals interrupt multiple stages of the life cycle making it impossible for these butterflies to survive.
Efforts to increase Karner blue populations are underway. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is just one group who has dedicated time and resources into the survival of this tiny butterfly. Preserving and recovering over 600 acres of suitable habitat will hopefully encourage populations to grow by the thousands.
As you can see from the map below, they are restoring areas where, historically, populations were found.
Now it’s Your Turn
Easy peasy steps to do your part. If you live in any of the areas where the Karner blue was historically present, plan to do your part.
By planting lupines and encouraging wildlife in your yard, you are enabling these relationships that would otherwise fall to the wayside. Use the knowledge you have to rebuild a population that is dwindling.
Don’t live in an area where you’d ever find the Karner blue? Share the information with someone who does. Get the word out there. Be an enabler.