The endangered Copper Wing Butterfly is a rare and beautiful creature. Only as big as your fingernail, this butterfly has a distribution that is restricted to altitudes above 900m. It occurs in small populations in the Blue Mountains region and west to Bathurst.
The butterfly is found in limited habitats containing its host plant the native Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa). It also has a fascinating mutualistic relationship with a native species of ant; the ants attend the butterfly larvae, carrying them around the branches of their host plant to eat and protecting them from predation. The pupae of the butterfly are also safely stowed away underground in the ants' nest, ready for pupation and emergence. The ants in turn benefit from a sugary secretion produced by the larvae.
The Copper Wing Butterfly is threatened by loss of habitat and by invasive weed species which compete with its host plant. AEFI contributes to the management of a small population of these butterflies at Secret Creek Sanctuary but another important site containing a larger population has been identified nearby in Lithgow. The current owner is in the process of generously donating this land to the Foundation for management and weed control, to restore the butterfly's habitat to optimal condition.