Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Our small endangered butterfly pulls a big crowd

Posted on 17 October, 2019 by Ivan

Our Eltham Copper Butterfly education event was a delightful success over the past weekend, with an enthusiastic crowd of 40 people attending to learn about this unique and threatened butterfly. The event was held at the Tea Room in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens (Castlemaine VIC) and included a guided walk with local experts Elaine Bayes and Karl Just, exploring the native woodlands north of the gardens. Karl and Elaine delivered an informative and engaging presentation on the fascinating biology of the Eltham Copper Butterfly and its symbiotic relationship with Notoncus ant species. It was warming to hear Elaine’s enthusiasm about the mating cycles of this butterfly and her excitement that more populations may exist around our region, and could be discovered during monitoring over the next few months.

The Eltham Copper Butterfly is a small and attractive butterfly with bright copper colouring on the tops of its wings visible during the summer flight season.

Some interesting butterfly facts:

  • This unusual species due has a close symbiotic association with a group of ants from the genus Notoncus and the shrub Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).
  • Adult butterflies lay their eggs on the roots and stems of Sweet Bursaria. Once the eggs hatch, the ants guard the caterpillars (providing protection from predators), ushering the larvae to and from the ant nest at the base of the shrub, to feed on the Sweet Bursaria leaves at night.  In return the ants feed on the sugar secretions exuded from the body of the caterpillar.
  • The butterfly prefers open flight paths and receiving direct sunlight. It likes vegetation with an open middle and understorey.

Karl and Elaine will be conducting Eltham Copper Butterfly monitoring sessions around Castlemaine over November and December 2019. We encourage interested people to come along, learn how to monitor and get involved with protecting this special butterfly.

If you’d like to get involved in monitoring please see our relevant blog post (click here) or contact Ivan at Connecting Country (

Here are some photos from our recent event from Ivan Carter, and some lovely Eltham Copper Butterfly photos from Elaine Bayes:

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