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Monitoring by moonlight - Purple Copper Butterfly

Intrepid volunteers and Central Tablelands Local Land Services staff recently spent time at Yetholme and Mount David monitoring Purple Copper Butterfly caterpillar numbers.

This work follows on from a review carried out in 2015 by Office of Environment and Heritage which involved assessing known butterfly sites. The review looked at habitat values and the issues that could threaten the sites.

Funding from the Australian Government National Landcare Programme, will enable Central Tablelands Local Land Services to use this information and carry out on-ground works. This includes weed control and an ecological burning program which will help to enhance and improve habitat

“We have conducted baseline caterpillar surveys to inform future management of this flagship species, and to fill in knowledge gaps about its habits and ecology.

With an ongoing commitment to its conservation, this species will continue to be enjoyed by locals and visitors to the region”, said Mr. Ray Mjadwesch, a consultant who is assisting Local Land Services staff with the project.

The Purple Copper Butterfly can only be found in small pockets of the Central Tablelands region. It has very specific needs and can only be found at elevations above 900 metres. It feeds on one type of shrub, the Native Blackthorn and has a very interesting relationship with a species of native ant.

“The caterpillars are active at this time of the year, but can only be seen after sunset. A native ant shepherds them out of their nests to graze during the night, that’s why we look for them after dark,” said Mr Mjadwesch.

During the monitoring it was found that many of the Native Blackthorns were old and suffering from a lack of new growth.

Research has shown that the Native Blackthorn responds well to a cool burn so Central Tablelands Local Land Services staff are working with the Rural Fire Service and landholders to carry out ecological burns in March and April.

“When the burns take place, the caterpillars will be safely below the ground. In September they will emerge – as butterflies,” said Ms. Colleen Farrow, Senior Land Services Officer, Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

“We hope that this part of the project will help the Native Blackthorn to continue to flourish which will in turn, have a positive impact on butterfly populations.”

Ms. Gerarda Mader, a member of the Napoleon Reef Landcare group spent a night volunteering on the project. Ms. Mader is passionate about the protection of the butterfly’s habitat and was grateful for the opportunity to get involved in the project.

“To contribute to information about the butterfly is fantastic. It is so rare and beautiful and to have it living in our backyard is very special”, said Ms. Mader.

For further information about this work please contact Colleen Farrow on 0438 867249.

Media contact: Kylie Krause 0439 608 370 | kylie.krause@lls.nsw.gov.au