ALBANY, NY – The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission invites the public to the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center for a rare opportunity to view Karner blue butterflies raised for release as part of its effort to recover this endangered species. The butterflies will be on display at the Discovery Center, located at 195 New Karner Road in Albany, through July 20 and perhaps longer depending on the rate at which they emerge from their chrysalises.
According to Executive Director Christopher Hawver, “This is a shining example of the outstanding work being done by our conservation science team on this globally-rare Preserve. It also showcases how the Discovery Center serves as a public resource connecting people directly to nature and science.”
“This is a very exciting, and very limited chance to see this federally-endangered butterfly,” says Discovery Center Director Jeffrey Folmer. “One question visitors often ask is ‘Where can I see the Karner blues?’ These beautiful, but tiny butterflies are rare, hard to spot, live only three to five days and are difficult to distinguish from other similar non-endangered butterflies. We now have 900 of them emerging from their chrysalises one by one and they’re on view until they all emerge.”
After more than 50 years of decline, the Karner blue has returned to former haunts throughout many parts of the 3,200-acre Preserve. This insect, first studied and named by zoologist and renowned author Vladimir Nabokov in 1944, can now be found at nearly 60 sites covering more than 200 acres of the Preserve.
“Releasing butterflies into newly restored habitat is an important step in getting this iconic species off state and federal endangered species lists”, says the Commission’s Conservation Director, Neil Gifford. Gifford added, “The captive rearing program is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service New York Field office. We are incredibly grateful for that support and for the work of the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, who raise the butterflies for us at their facility in Concord, New Hampshire.”
According to Gifford, “Wild adult female Karners are captured in the Preserve in June and transported to New Hampshire, where the eggs they produce are raised to chrysalises that are returned to the Commission in July. The resulting adults emerge at the Discovery Center and are released into the Preserve’s restored habitat”. In many cases these “new” colonies in fact represent the return of this animal to the very locations where it was once so abundant. According to Gifford, “we have returned Karners to 19 locations across the Preserve since 2008 and all 19 sites continue to support self sufficient populations”.
The Discovery Center offers numerous changing programs on a monthly basis all year-round. During the time the butterflies are on view, many of the programs will focus on in-depth explorations of the Karner blue targeted to audiences from pre-k to adults. Some programs will include an educator bringing butterflies out from the exhibit inside their mesh enclosures, or an even rarer close-up inspection in the wild out on the trails. Folmer adds, “Neil, his colleagues and his staff have done an amazing job. There’s more work to be done, but the story of their success to date, the interaction of the butterfly with this globally-rare, fire-dependent habitat, the role of wild blue lupine; it’s all a fascinating tale worth learning about. We invite you to visit the Discovery Center to learn more about the Karner blue butterfly and the many other remarkable wildlife species that call the Albany Pine Bush Preserve home.” For more information, or to register for a program visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.
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. The 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 numerous programs about the ecology, natural and cultural history of the Pine Bush area. Admission is free and program fees are $3 per person or $5 per family. The center is open Monday-Friday 9AM-4PM, Saturday and Sunday 10AM-4PM, and on most holidays.