Purple Copper (Paralucia spinifera)
Appearance: Small. Male upperside blue, female upperside dark brown, both with colourful, iridescent suffusion. Underside light brown with several dark patches and bands.
Wingspan: 2.0 cm
Season: 1 generation in early spring.
Range: NSW. Restricted to the western slopes of the Blue Mountains between Bathurst and Lithgow.
Habitat: From 900 to 1250 m in open, grassy areas and woodland with shrubs of the larval food plant.
Photo: Male, Lithgow, NSW, 18/09/2010.
The Purple Copper, also called Bathurst Copper, is one of the rarest and most restricted butterflies of Australia. Discovered in the 1960s, this magnificent species can only be found along the western slopes of the Blue Mountains in the area between Bathurst and Lithgow at altitudes between about 900 to 1250 m. The butterflies usually fly in open, grassy areas and woodland with shrubs of the larval food plant, Bursaria spinosa, and prefer sunny slopes, often with a western aspect.
The butterflies can be seen in early spring from about mid August to mid November, depending on altitude. Males are often found sitting on the ground or in the low vegetation, waiting for females to pass by. They usually rest with their wings open and exposed to the sunlight.
Both male and female show a spectacular display of iridescent colours on the upperside of the wings. The colour varies with viewing angle, and often each wing is lit up in a different colour of the rainbow. The pattern of dark bands and patches on the underside of the wings is characteristic and somewhat similar to that of the Fiery Copper (Paralucia pyrodiscus) and the Bright Copper (Paralucia aurifer).