Skip to content

Strategic burn trials show promise for butterfly habitat

Early results from strategic blackthorn burn trials are showing promising signs of positive habitat regrowth on the Central Tablelands.

In November, Central Tablelands Local Land Services staff were busy monitoring blackthorn shrubs (Bursaria spinosa ssp. lasiophylla)near Mount David, south of Bathurst.

Earlier this year strategic ecological burns were conducted on small patches of blackthorn , which is the only known feed source for larvae of the endangered Purple Copper Butterfly. The burns were approved through the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

“Many of the existing blackthorn shrubs are old and covered in lichen, making them less appealing to the butterflies. We anticipate the strategic burning will promote fresh regrowth and improve the general health of the shrubs,” said Senior Land Services Officer, Allan Wray.

Burn treatments and paired control non-burn sites were established with assistance from the owners of the site, the Rural Fire Service, the Bathurst Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Office of Environment & Heritage. The project has been funded through Catchment Action NSW and the National Landcare Program.

The burn was conducted in May while the butterfly pupae were safely underground protected by the natural insulation of ant nest chambers. The larvae have a special relationship with a native ant, which protects the larvae while they graze on the blackthorn leaves. In return, the larvae exude a sugary substance which the ants enjoy.

“This project is a good example of how a scientific approach can be applied to measure the success of management actions to promote the recovery of a threatened species,” said Sarah Bell, Senior Project Officer with the Office of Environment and Heritage.

“It is great to see some innovative techniques being trialled in a scientific manner to recover this unique threatened species.”

“Following recent rain we are relieved to see strong fresh growth sprouting from the base of the singed Bursaria bushes in the test patches,” reported Alexandra Tuson, owner of the property where the burn trials are taking place.

“Old dense vegetation and lichens, which obstructed the larvae from climbing several metres for tender growth, has been considerably reduced.”

Volunteers andLocal Land Services have been back at the site during December in search of Purple Copper Butterfly larvae.

Local Land Services is keen to involve new participants in the monitoring project. If you are interested in taking part in larvae monitoring, please contact Allan Wray on 02 6333 2318.