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Size does matter - Learning more about the Purple Copper Butterfly

A cold and windy day did not deter 45 community members from attending an information day near Bathurst on the Purple Copper Butterfly. It occurs only in the Central Tablelands of NSW and is one of Australia's rarest butterflies.

Those attending were able to see a healthy population of the butterfly out enjoying the sunshine, which was a great opportunity and a rare treat.

The day was coordinated by Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and Central Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS). These organisations realise the importance of working with public and private landholders to protect the butterfly's habitat. 

Although the butterfly is considerably well known by many residents throughout the Central Tablelands, the day provided an opportunity for landholders to speak to local staff from OEH and Central Tablelands LLS and learn more about the specific requirements that the butterfly needs. 

"The Purple Copper Butterfly lives in a very specific habitat", said Gavin Newton, a Ranger with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
"It lives in elevations above 900 metres and feeds only on a local native shrub called Native blackthorn. This shrub occurs in this area and this is why the butterfly can be found between Bathurst, Oberon and Lithgow." 

One of the most interesting facts about the butterfly is its relationship with a small native ant. The butterfly, which is about 20 millimetres in size, will only select Native blackthorn that is associated with a native ant species. These ants keep the larvae underground in the ant's nest during the day. At night the ants shepherd them out to continue grazing on the Native blackthorn. The ants' efforts are rewarded with a sugary honeydew from a gland on the larvae's back. 

"It was great to see the butterfly in a healthy protected environment. To be able to spend time learning more about this species with other interested people made the day really worthwhile", said Colleen Farrow, Senior Land Services Officer with Central Tablelands LLS. 

Major threats to the butterfly include the grazing of native blackthorn habitat and weed infestation. As a threatened species the Central Tablelands LLS is keen to work with landholders to protect the Purple Copper Butterfly and its habitat. 

If you are interested in working with Central Tablelands LLS to carry out habitat protection or enhancement, please contact Colleen Farrow on 6363 7874. This species is also part of a State Government program called Saving our Species. This program aims to aims to maximise the number of threatened species that can be secured in the wild in NSW for 100 years. For more information on Saving our Species please contact the Office of Environment and Heritage on 6884 8675
Media enquiries: Kylie Krause 0439 608 370