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What happens when the lights go out

December and January is the time of the year for Purple Copper Butterfly larvae to start their development – and keen observers are on-hand to see the event take place.

The Purple Copper Butterfly is a threatened species and only known to exist under specific conditions in the Bathurst, Lithgow and Mount David area of Central West NSW.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services staff and volunteers spent time recently with local environmental consultant Mr. Ray Mjadwesch to monitor larvae numbers at Yetholme and Mount David.

This is the second year the Central Tablelands Local Land Services has funded Mr. Mjadwesch to carry out larvae monitoring and the results help to build a better picture of the potential numbers of Purple Copper Butterfly at known sites within the region.

Ms. Gerarda Mader and Ms. Christine Bailey are members of Napoleon Reefs Landcare Group which is in close proximity to Purple Copper Butterfly habitat. “It is such a joy to see these rare creatures and learn more about them”, said Ms. Mader, who took part in the larvae survey for the second time.

Ms. Bailey added, “I tell anyone who’ll listen about the amazing life cycle of the Purple Copper Butterfly and its incredibly limited range and rarity.

The Purple Copper Butterfly is the local exemplar for all threatened species, be they fauna or flora, and as such highlights the urgent need to monitor numbers and to conserve habitat”.

Results are positive, with some sites indicating an increase in larvae numbers from last year.

The Purple Copper Butterfly lives only on a type of shrub called Native Blackthorn. Eggs are laid on or near the shrub and once they are ready to graze the plant, this nocturnal animal can be found crawling along the stems from 10pm until about 5am. They will be attended by a species of native ant that protects the larvae from attack while it grazes the Native Blackthorn.

“We are so fortunate to see this part of the butterfly’s life cycle and to witness the relationship it has with the native ant”, said Colleen Farrow, Senior Land Services Officer with Central Tablelands Local Land Services. “To have local interest and the help from these volunteers is an added bonus”, Ms. Farrow added.

Funding from Catchment Action NSW will allow staff from Central Tablelands Local Land Services to continue to work with private and public landholders to carry out on-ground works such as the planting of Native Blackthorn and weed control. It is hoped that these works will increase the butterfly’s habitat and expand the grazing areas for this species.

For further information about the Purple Copper Butterfly project please contact Colleen Farrow on 6363 7874.

Media enquiries: Kylie Krause | 0439608370