Nature conservation

Threatened species

Purple Copper Butterfly, Bathurst Copper Butterfly - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Paralucia spinifera
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Gazetted date: 15 Nov 1996
Profile last updated: 01 Dec 2017


A small butterfly with a wingspan of 20 – 30 mm. The upper sides of the butterfly’s wings are copper-coloured and display a purple, blue, and green iridescence when sunning. The undersides of the wings are patterned with subtle brown, black and grey. The black antennae are dotted with white spots and terminate with a black tip. It is distinguished from P. aurifera and P. pyrodiscus by the size, shape and colour of the wings, and also by a spine that extends over a joint in the forelegs.


Occurs on the Central Tablelands of NSW in an area approximately bounded by Oberon, Hartley and Bathurst. The butterfly is found at 35 locations, all within the Greater Lithgow, Bathurst Regional and Oberon local government areas. It is possible that additional locations will be identified, and these may lie outside the currently known distribution.

Habitat and ecology

  • Occurs above 850 m elevation, at sites with a south-west to north-west aspect, usually where direct sunlight reaches the habitat, and with extremes of cold such as regular winter snowfalls or heavy frosts.
  • Geology, soils and dominant vegetation canopy species vary between habitat locations. However vegetation structure is consistent, commonly open woodland or open forest with a sparse understorey that is dominated by the shrub, Blackthorn Bursaria spinosa subsp. lasiophylla.
  • Its lifecycle relies on a mutualistic relationship with the ant, Anonychomyra itinerans, and on the presence of B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla which is used as the larval food plant.
  • The butterflies emerge between August (later at higher altitude sites) and November, with a two-week peak of activity in September. After mating, the females lay eggs on or in the immediate vicinity of B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla. After hatching, the larva is attended by the ant A. itinerans, which is thought to provide predator protection to the larva and benefit by receiving nutritional secretions from the larva. Initially remaining on the B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla night and day, the larva becomes nocturnal in the latter part of its six - eight week larval period. Pupation occurs between December and August in the underground nest of A. itinerans at the base of the host plant.
  • The relationship with A. itinerans and B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla is not well understood, but it is thought to be highly significant. Even though the ant is sometimes difficult to detect, A. itinerans has been recorded at almost all locations. Similarly B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla is present at all locations.
  • Adult males fly rapidly at about one metre from the ground and rest with wings parted in places exposed to full sun. Females fly less rapidly and tend to remain nearer to the host plant. The butterflies generally remain in the vicinity of B. spinosa subsp. lasiophylla, and are rarely observed more than 10 m distant from the plant.

Regional distribution and habitat

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Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW South Western SlopesCapertee Valley Predicted >850m elevation, above 800m
South Eastern HighlandsBathurst Known None
South Eastern HighlandsCapertee Uplands Known >850m elevation, above 800m
South Eastern HighlandsHill End Known None
South Eastern HighlandsOberon Known above 800m
Sydney BasinBurragorang Known above 800m
Sydney BasinWollemi Known above 800m