Online publisher of research-based news, The Conversation, has recently released an article outlining 26 species of Australian butterfly that are at the greatest risk of extinction – and the Wheatbelt’s Arid Bronze Azure Butterfly is sitting at number seven.
In the 1990s it was feared that the Arid Bronze Azure Butterfly (Orgyris subterrestris) had become extinct. But, amazingly, some 13 years later a butterfly enthusiast stopped for a roadside break near a nature reserve in Mukinbudin. A flash of colour caught his eye. The butterfly he sighted was later confirmed as being the elusive Arid Bronze Azure Butterfly.
What’s so special about the Arid Bronze Azure Butterfly?
Living in such an arid area, it can be hard work for the butterfly to find enough food. It has developed a unique lifestyle trait to compensate. The butterfly larvae live entirely within the ant’s nest during it’s development.
The butterfly tricks a specific type of sugar ant into thinking that the butterfly larvae are queen ants. The ants escort the larvae into their nests where they remain until the larvae leaves the nest to cocoon.
What actually happens in the ants nest is a mystery. Do the ants feed the larvae or does the larvae make a meal out of baby ants? Either way, the Arid Bronze Azure is totally reliant on these sugar ants for their survival.
So, what can you do?
These ant populations are only known in two active sites throughout Western Australia – both of them located in or around the Wheatbelt town of Mukinbudin.
Many landowners don’t realise that they may have a rare and endangered species on their properties. By limiting clearing among remaining patches of remnant vegetation on their properties and adjoining road reserves is a good place to start.
You can also become a citizen scientist. If you happen to be lucky enough to spot the Arid Bronze Azure, you can record sightings and upload photos to the free Butterflies Australia app.
Find more information on the Arid Bronze Azure Butterfly here.
Photo Credit: Martin Purvis/PURVISION