Citizen scientists urged to report sightings of rare butterfly

Eagle-eyed Central Tablelands residents are being urged to help scientists by reporting sightings of the tiny purple copper butterfly this spring.

Purple copper butterfly (Paralucia spinifera)

This rare butterfly has a wingspan of just two centimetres but its iridescent purple-blue wings and fussy feeding habits are key to spotting it in flight.

The endangered butterfly is found around Bathurst, Oberon and Lithgow, said David Coote, NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) Ecosystem and Threatened Species team leader.

'The purple copper is a picky eater, lives close to a particular species of ants and can be found feeding on native blackthorn on sunny, calm spring days,' Mr Coote said.

'This is a very rare species that until very recently was only known to occur on the Central Tablelands. The butterfly is active from late August until October each year and DPE scientists are hoping the community can help find more populations thanks to the Counting Coppers project.'

The Counting Coppers project, run by Butterflies Australia and the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program, asks citizen scientists to record their sightings during the spring butterfly season through the easy-to-use Butterflies Australia app.

Mr Coote said Information from the public will help scientists conserve the tiny butterfly and its habitat.

'A population of the purple copper butterfly has recently been found within Namadji National Park in the ACT.

'Butterflies play an important role in the ecosystem as pollinators and their presence signals a healthy ecosystem.

'The more information we have about where this beautiful butterfly and its habitat exists, the more we can do to safeguard their future.'

Find out more about the purple copper butterfly on the DPE Purple copper butterfly webpage and on the Butterflies Australia website.

The Butterflies Australia app can be downloaded for free from the Google and Apple app stores.

Butterfly monitoring

  • Best spotted on sunny, calm days between 10am and 2pm
  • Adults fly on warm cloudless days
  • Only lives at elevations above 900 m
  • Found close to native blackthorn habitat
  • Has a symbiotic relationship with a species of ant
  • Sightings can be recorded from August 22 until late October
  • Also known as the Bathurst copper butterfly