ALBANY, NY –The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission announced the unprecedented discovery of a third brood of adult Karner blue butterflies at locations throughout the 3,200 acre Preserve, offering visitors to the globally-rare pine barrens a late-season opportunity to see this critically endangered animal.Karner blue butterflies typically have two broods per year, one in May/early June and the second in July. The discovery of a third brood is both remarkable and a bit alarming to Preserve scientists because the eggs produced by the July brood of adult Karners typically overwinter to produce adult Karners the following May. An early and very warm spring is the suspected cause of earlier broods this year and the additional late-season butterflies currently flying in the Preserve. The impacts of a third flight of adults to the long-term recovery of the species are unknown.
“The third flight is most likely the result of the record setting early start to the 2012 Karner season” according to the Preserve’s Conservation Director, Neil Gifford, who has been responsible for leading the recovery of this federally-endangered species in the Preserve for more than 16 years. According to the Preserve’s Conservation Biologist, Dr. Steven Campbell, “the first Karners of 2012 were observed 10 days earlier than the Commission’s previous record of May 14 set in 2001, and 21 days earlier than the 20-year average of May 25.” Dr. Campbell added that the number of Karners observed prior to this new third flight, appears to be up in 2012, and he is currently working with the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, to use those raw sample numbers to calculate a population size for the Preserve’s 58 Karner sites.
Only time and continued monitoring will determine if the late 2012 hatch will have an impact on the 2013 butterfly population and the longer-term recovery of the species. “We had no idea a third flight in a single season was possible before 2010” said Gifford. According to Gifford, it was in 2010 that Karner blue butterfly managers from Wisconsin to New Hampshire suspected that the late season adults they were seeing may be a previously unknown third flight. “We don’t yet have a good understanding of what the implications of a third brood will mean for the recovery of the species” said Gifford, adding “it will likely depend on whether the changing climate brings such conditions more frequently.”
Christopher Hawver, Executive Director of the Commission said, “the support of state and federal partners is helping the Commission build a healthier Preserve and a stronger Karner population. Since 1991 the Preserve has restored more than 300 acres of Karner blue habitat and expedited the colonization of that new habitat by releasing thousands of captive-reared Karners.”
Located within the Capital District Region, the Albany Pine Bush’s gently rolling sand plain is home to a variety of rare plants and animals, including the Federally-endangered Karner blue butterfly. The 3,200-acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve also creates a special habitat for a number of other rare and unique plants and animals, while providing visitors with an assortment of non-motorized recreational opportunities including hiking, jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing.
The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center transforms this globally unique destination into an exciting adventure where learning comes naturally through hands-on activities. As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center introduces visitors to everything that makes the Preserve rare and adventurous. With the help of many volunteers, the Discovery Center offers monthly outings and programs about the ecology, natural and cultural history of the Pine Bush area. Admission is free. The Center is open Tuesday-Friday 9AM-4PM, Saturday and Sunday 10AM-4PM, and on most holiday Mondays. The facility is also available for rental and ideal for training sessions, meetings, small conferences, special events, business retreats and private parties. For more information, visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.