Concord Students Plant for the Blues

From the National Wildlife Federation

Concord Students

Photo by: National Wildlife Federation

Concord, NH — On May 20 and 21, 2004, 18 different fourth and second grade classrooms from the Concord NH School District worked with National Wildlife Federation and NH Fish and Game staff to help restore habitat for Karner blue butterflies and other endangered pollinators. Not only did the kids work to plant the wild blue lupine that they had raised for the last several months in their classrooms, but several of the classes were treated to an amazing site.

For the first time in three years, "wild" adult Karner blue butterflies were seen flying around and landing on lupine to feed. According to NH Fish & Game biologists, these adults were the result of eggs laid last September that over-wintered and hatched in April. Students were also given the opportunity to watch a biologist in action as one of the wild butterflies was tagged and let go.

National Wildlife Federation has been actively involved in the Karner Blue Butterfly restoration program for the last five years. "It is really amazing to see the commitment and feelings of pride that these kids have when they plant their lupine," said Liz Soper, Education Coordinator for NWF. "They know they are personally helping an endangered species and the emotion that shown on their faces is what this program is all about."

So far this season, more than a dozen wild Karner Blue butterflies have been seen on the restoration easement. On June 4, 2004, 184 captive-reared adults from the first brood were released as well as some lab-laid eggs. Over 1,400 larvae are presently being reared at the captive facility. Some of these will be released as larvae and others as adults. This year's second brood of adults should emerge the first week of July – both in the lab and in the wild! So far 2004 has been a very successful season for Karner Blues.

The Karner Blue butterfly is New Hampshire's state butterfly and the official butterfly of the City of Concord. Until recently, the Concord Pine Barrens was the only site in New England that held a viable population of Karner Blue butterflies. The Concord Pine Barrens, like other Pine Barrens habitat across the United States, has largely been lost to development and the lack of regeneration because of fire suppression.

Specifically, one native plant, the wild blue lupine is unable to persist without the openings in the habitat that fire creates. Wild blue lupine is the only plant that Karner Blue larvae feed on. The loss of habitat and fire suppression most likely drove the Karner Blue to extinction in New Hampshire in 2001. Recovery efforts now include restoration of the Pine Barrens habitat, plant propagation, and captive and wild rearing efforts for Karner blues.

A successful collaborative partnership between National Wildlife Federation, New Hampshire Fish and Game and the Concord School District has been established and has been working over the last four years to develop an integrated classroom-based program that engages teachers, students, and community volunteers in the restoration of the Karner Blue butterfly and their native habitat. Teachers participate in a one-day professional development workshop that focuses on endangered species, habitat and specifics in regard to Karner Blues. Each participating classroom is then engaged in the process through NWF / NHFG classroom presentations and planting of wild blue lupine. Each classroom is responsible for the care and propagation of these plants that are then planted in the spring by the students on the restoration site.