Threatened Central West butterfly gets help from Saving our Species program

A small threatened butterfly, found only in a limited part of the Central West of NSW, is about to receive $20,000 worth of help under the State Government’s Saving our Species program.

Bathurst MP Paul Toole said the funds will assist with the removal of weeds that smother the primary habitat and food source of the Purple Copper Butterfly (Paralucia spinifera), which shares a fascinating relationship with a particular species of ant.

“This rare and fascinating butterfly is only known from 45 sites, all found at an altitude higher than 850 metres above sea level in an area bounded by the towns of Lithgow, Bathurst and Oberon,” Mr Toole said.

“One of the primary threats facing this butterfly is the loss of habitat caused by invasive weeds such as blackberry.”

The Purple Copper Butterfly feeds exclusively on a shrub called Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa subspecies lasiophylla) where it lays its eggs at the end of its lifespan.

The eggs are tended by a colony of ants who then guard the larvae and escort them to the ant nest and back to the plants to feed each night.  The ants protect the larvae against predators and in return the ants feed on a sugary honeydew from a gland on the larvae’s backs.

When fully grown, the larvae return to the ant’s nest to pupate from January until the butterflies emerge in September.

“$20,000 is being provided through the Saving our Species program to help the Lithgow-Oberon Landcare Association undertake the removal of mostly blackberry which smothers the Bursaria that the butterfly relies upon,” Mr Toole said.

“A number of the sites where weed removal will take place are private property and travelling stock reserves.

 “It’s important to ensure we preserve all native species because they all play a vital part of a natural system upon which we all depend and which helps to provide to our basic needs, clean air, clean, water and healthy soils.”