Join the search for a rare butterfly

The community is being urged to spring into action and help scientists by recording sightings of the rare and beautiful purple copper butterfly.

Purple copper butterfly (Paralucia spinifera)

The tiny butterfly is only known to live in 2 regions and scientists are hoping sightings during the spring butterfly season will help conserve the butterfly and its habitat.

The endangered butterfly is found in the Central Tablelands around Bathurst, Oberon and Lithgow. In 2021 a second population was found in Namadgi National Park in the Australian Capital Territory.

“The purple copper is a stunning butterfly but sadly it is considered one of 26 Australian butterflies at greatest risk of extinction,” said Katy Wilkins, a threatened species officer with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

“We don’t know how many individuals remain but we would love the community to keep a look out this spring as it is possible extra eyes could help us find additional locations where this rare butterfly may live.”

Butterfly hunters should focus on areas with native blackthorn, as the butterfly lives close to a species of ant that feeds on the plant. Due to their striking iridescent wings, the butterflies are easiest to spot while in flight on sunny, calm spring days.

The butterfly is active from late August until November each year and anyone can report sightings thanks to the Counting Coppers project. 

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

Find out more about the purple copper butterfly and our citizen science project on the department's 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.

Where to look for the purple copper butterfly

  • Look for the butterfly in areas above 850 m with native blackthorn from late August to early November.
  • Adult butterflies usually fly between 10 am and 2 pm.
  • They prefer sunny days with little or no wind.
  • Between November and January, the caterpillars crawl on blackthorn stems and feed on the leaves between 10 pm and 5 am.