26 September 2023

Citizen scientists wanted to count tiny wings

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Butterfly enthusiasts are being urged to report sightings of a rare butterfly this Spring to help scientists at the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) get to learn more about it.

Leader of the Ecosystem and Threatened Species team at DPE, David Coote said the tiny endangered Purple Copper butterfly was found around Bathurst, Oberon and Lithgow.

“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,” Mr Coote said.

“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,” he said.

“This is a very rare species that until very recently was only known to occur on the Central Tablelands.”

Mr Coote said the butterfly was active from late August until October each year, and DPE scientists were hoping the community could help find more populations through the Counting Coppers project.

He said the project, run by Butterflies Australia and the State’s Saving our Species program, asked citizen scientists to record their sightings during the Spring butterfly season on the Butterflies Australia app.

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

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

He said butterflies played an important role in the ecosystem as pollinators and their presence signalled 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,” Mr Coote said.

Further information on the Counting Coopers project can be accessed at this PS News link.

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