Celebrate Spring with MNA!

Spring has sprung, and has already brought with it markedly warmer weather and the beginning buds of plants sprouting back to life. In addition to numerous sanctuaries ideal for Michiganders eager to invigorate their muscles and minds after another winter, MNA has several upcoming events and activities for nature enthusiasts to look forward to. It’s a great time to be outdoors and reconnect with nature and one another through seasonal family-friendly fun!

Participate in a 5K

The Karner Blue Butterfly and Family Fun Run & 5K will be hosted Saturday, May 20 at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids as part of the Pure Michigan™ FITness Series Challenge; in addition, there will be a Kids 1 Mile Fun Run as well. As if being active in the great outdoors and supporting a good cause isn’t motivation enough, participants who earn a mere 5 points will be entered for grand prize drawing for a trip up the Mackinac Bridge Tower! Proceeds from the race go to the protection of habitat for the endangered Karner blue. Read up on this small yet splashy species and its preferred habitat here.

Celebrate Earth Day

A fun and earth-friendly activity is planned for visitors to the MNA booth Sunday, April 23 during the Ann Arbor 46th annual Earth Day Festival, held from 12-4pm at the Leslie Science and Nature Center. The festival is a great opportunity to engage in activities that celebrate Earth and learn about environmental topics through live-animal presentations, naturalist-led hikes, informational presentations and discussions. You can even dress up as your favorite plant or animal! Nature lovers of all ages are welcome. No signup is necessary.

Earth Day - GVSU interns and Five Lakes steward

Visit a sanctuary

Many MNA sanctuaries that are open to the public are ideal destinations for visitors to enjoy and connect with nature through various outdoor activities like scenic hikes and peaceful walks, seasonal wildflower displays, birding and photography. Below is a list of MNA sanctuaries selected for these springtime activities, but a more comprehensive list allowing you to search for sanctuaries in your area can be viewed here.

Sharon Zahrfeld Memorial Nature Sanctuary


Keweenaw Shores No 1 Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw Shores 1 - Charles Eshbach (2)

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary


Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve


Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary

Prairie trillium at Trillium Ravine

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary


Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary

EPSON DSC picture

Become a volunteer

MNA coordinates numerous volunteer workdays throughout the year, providing participants with information and experience on the removal of invasive species for the preservation of native plant communities that form the basis of ecologically important habitats. Find a day to get involved with workdays in your area by keeping tabs on the MNA events calendar! Upcoming workdays include Dolan Nature Sanctuary, Dowagiac Woods, Mystery Valley Karst Preserve, Riley-Shurte Woods, Black Creek Nature Sanctuary, and Grinnell Nature Sanctuary. Also upcoming is a guided nature hike through Dorion Rooks Nature Sanctuary.

workday at Goose Creek

Become a steward

Those looking for additional involvement can become a steward for MNA. It is both easy and rewarding, with a minimum requirement of visiting a sanctuary once per year and completing a comprehensive monitor report. The ideal steward also leads field trips and educational events, marks boundaries and maintains trails at the sanctuary. If you are interested in becoming a steward, please contact MNA Stewardship Coordinator Andrew Bacon by email at abacon@michigannature.org or by calling the MNA office at (866) 223-2231.

Bill McEachern and David Mancini at Kernan - Rachel Maranto

Karner blue butterflies, wolves, and climate change: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around the state and the globe. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

The Karner’s range extends from eastern Minnesota and eastward to the Atlantic seaboard. Image: USFWS Midwest

Imperiled butterfly leads way for conservation of climate sensitive species (Great Lakes Echo): The Karner blue butterfly population in Michigan is down, and experts say the state’s dry winters, hot summers, and inconsistent precipitation are to blame. Conservation strategies like oak savanna restoration have helped the Karner blues, as well as a number of state threatened and endangered plants. With additional pressure from climate change, scientists are seeking new approaches to protect the butterflies and other rare species.

There are now just three wolves left on Isle Royale (IFL Science): Wolves and moose have been observed for decades on Isle Royale National Park. Wolves access the remote island by walking over ice bridges from land near the Minnesota-Ontario border. Typically, between 18 and 27 wolves are seen each year and there may have been as many as 50 at one time. Last winter, there were nine wolves. The wolf population began declining in 2009, plummeting by 88 percent. The dwindling frequency of ice bridges means fewer new or visiting wolves can access Isle Royale.

Scientists and religious leaders discuss climate change at Vatican (The New York Times): Scientists, diplomats and religious and political leaders gathered at the Vatican on Tuesday to discuss climate change and its impact on poverty. In September, the pope is expected to address Congress and a United Nations summit meeting on sustainable development to reiterate his environmental message. Following Tuesday’s symposium, the participants released a statement underscoring their environmental concerns.

Whooping crane, No. 27-14, that was spotted in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Rhoda Johnson.

Rare whooping crane spotted in Southwest Michigan land preserve (MLive): Local birdwatcher Rhoda Johnson reported seeing an endangered whooping crane at the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy’s Topinabee Preserve near Niles earlier this month. There are only about 600 whooping cranes in the world and the bird Johnson saw in Southwest Michigan was raised at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland and has a tracking device. She was released in Wisconsin last September and has migrated from Kentucky to Wisconsin, Indiana, and now Southwest Michigan.

How Will This Harsh Winter Affect Wildlife?

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA  intern

The polar vortex may be finally past us, but cold temperatures are still prevalent throughout Michigan. We all know it made for a miserable winter for us, but how was wildlife affected?

Karner Blue Butterfly

The Karner blue butterfly lays it’s eggs near the ground so the snow can help insulate them through the winter. Photo from MNA Archives.

Many wildlife species are well adapted to thrive in cold temperatures. This winter proved to be beneficial for some endangered species here in Michigan. The Karner blue butterfly will hopefully see a spike in population from the excessive amounts of snow this winter brought. The butterfly’s eggs, which are laid on leaf litter near the ground over the winter, do best when there is deep snow cover on the ground over the course of the entire winter. The snow keeps them from drying out and provides extra insulation from air temperatures which can be colder than the ground temperatures.

Cisco fish are another endangered species that will benefit from the cold. They lay their eggs under the ice of the Great Lakes which protects them from getting thrashed around too much by waves. When there is little to no ice coverage, the waves cause the eggs to break. The heavy and vast ice coverage that the Great Lakes has had this winter will help provide a great barrier for the eggs and hopefully lead to more of them surviving.

When temperatures get cold, honeybees cluster and vibrate their wings to create heat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When temperatures get cold, honeybees cluster and vibrate their wings to create heat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Honeybees continue to thrive in the hive during extreme cold streaks. They gather in massive amounts to form a dense cluster around the outside of the hive when the temperature drops. As it gets colder, the cluster of bees becomes tighter and they move closer inside the hive. In order to stay warm and keep the queen warm, they exercise by rapidly vibrating their wings. It also creates air currents that expel carbon dioxide and moisture.

Not every species benefits from the extreme cold. Many invasive species are unable to handle the sub zero temperatures. Although it is unfortunate for the insects, it is good news for the plants affected by them and it could help solve issues with some invasive species in Michigan.

The emerald ash borer larvae can withstand temperatures as low as negative 20 degrees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The emerald ash borer larvae can withstand temperatures as low as negative 20 degrees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Temperatures were cold enough in certain areas to freeze and kill many invasive species, such as the emerald ash borer. They are able to withstand several degrees below zero, but if temperatures hit 20 or 30 degrees below zero, they may not be able to survive.

Other invasive species do not fair as well as the emerald ash borer. The gypsy moth begins to freeze when temperatures hit below 17 degrees and the wooly adelgis, which has killed thousands of hemlock trees in the Northwest, dies when temperatures fall just below zero.



July 17: The Odyssey Visits Newaygo Prairie With a Bonus Hike

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling


Tina with Chuck and our new intern friends at Newaygo Prairie! Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Could it be any hotter July 17th at the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary? It did not seem all that strange that there were cacti growing in this nature sanctuary as the heat beat down. Gratefully we accepted umbrellas and cold cloths from volunteer photographer Marilyn Keigley and we wondered how the four volunteers who were pulling invasive were going to survive much longer. Three were college students (Rebecca Andrews, Cara Burwell, and Rowanna Humphreys) getting degrees related to conservation and doing internships. How appreciative we are to see young people dedicating themselves to the environment and helping MNA maintain Newaygo Prairie. Chuck Vannette, the steward at Newaygo, greeted us along with John Bagley, the new steward at Karner Blue, and both helped guide the stalwart Odyssey participants that turned out in the almost 100 degree heat. We were delighted to see Regional Stewardship Organizer Matt Schultz arrive to support the Odyssey, and it also meant all three RSOs have now joined us on the Odyssey. Thank you, Katherine, Adrienne, and Matt.

Chuck has been interested in prairies for a long time, and now he lives across the road from the MNA sanctuary. When he is mowing his lawn he has to break for Karner Blue butterflies in his yard! This delicate beauty can only be found in prairie savannas where lupine grows since its larva depend on lupine as a food source. The Karner Blue is a very small butterfly that flits about in an erratic manner and is hard to capture on film. Continue reading


At MNA, our Mission is to protect special natural areas and the rare species that live there. The goals of our blog are to cover the latest environmental issues affecting these areas and provide information about the efforts of our volunteers. Our weekly “ENDANGERED!” column serves to inform you about the endangered and threatened plant and animal species found in and around these special natural areas, and how you can contribute to conservation efforts before it is too late.

Karner Blue Butterfly
By Brandon Grenier

In late May and early June, as the first signs of summer appear, you may be lucky enough to glimpse the first wave of Karner blue butterflies (Lycaeides melissa samuelis). Difficult to spot, this nickel-sized butterfly can only be found in a few select states and lives in only one type of low-growing vegetation. Habitat is becoming scarce as suburban sprawl removes the pine barrens where the butterfly thrives. Beyond its aesthetic value, the Karner blue butterfly is an indicator of a healthy barren habitat and is part of an intricate food web in which other species depend on it to thrive.

Physical Appearance:
The Karner blue is a small butterfly with an average wingspan of one inch. Males have vibrant blue wings with a black and white trim along the edges. Females have a dull-gray coloring on their outer wings and distinctive orange crescents along their wingtips. Both sexes have black dots along their undersides circled in white scattered throughout their wings and orange crescents running along their edges.

Preferred Habitat:
The Karner blues’ only food source is the wild blue lupine flower: caterpillars only eat the leaves and adults only drink the nectar of the flower, which restricts the butterfly’s habitat. The lupine flower grows only in pine and oak savannas and barren, thus choosing the only place Karner blues can be found. The butterfly once ranged from Maine to Minnesota, but now it has been restricted to small populations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and possibly Illinois.

Life Cycle:
Karner blue butterflies have two generations and hatch twice a year. The first hatch emerges in mid-May through early June and contains eggs laid in the previous winter. The second hatch emerges in mid-July through early August. Once hatched, the caterpillars are tended to by ants. Ants collect a sugary solution secreted by the caterpillar, and the ants protect the caterpillar from predators and parasites.

List Status:
The Karner blue butterfly has been federally listed as an endangered species since 1992. Because the butterfly only eats one plant, if its food source is gone then it too will disappear. The pine barrens that the butterfly prefers are being split up by roads and urban development, resulting in the fragmentation of the Karner blue population. These secluded populations cannot interbreed and are gradually moving farther apart, making it harder for population growth.

Protection Efforts:
The DNRE has adapted a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Karner blue butterfly that protects and restores the savannas and barrens where the species live. The plan asks that businesses manage their land in a way that is conscientious of the species’ needs and maintain environmentally friendly practices. Also, collection of the butterfly is illegal without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

MNA has a Karner blue sanctuary where stewards actively protect this species with projects such as prescribed burns, invasive species removal, and tree and brush removal to expand habitat.

How You Can Help:
To help save this butterfly before it is too late, you can plant butterfly-friendly and native plants in your home gardens to help support their populations. Exotic flowers may be beautiful to look at, but growing local flowers will help keep Michigan beautiful for generations.

MNA volunteers are currently working to protect this and other endangered and threatened species, and you can help too. Join our efforts as a volunteer removing invasive plants in the special natural areas where this species lives. Or, become a steward and take responsibility for planning efforts to maintain a specific MNA sanctuary. To find out how to get involved, visit our website.