Butterfly of the Month - September 2022
The Copper Pencilled-blue (Cyprotides cyprotus pallescens) is an intriguing little butterfly reaching a wingspan of 27mm for the male and 28mm for the female. It’s common name is derived from the copper coloured upper wing side of the male which is suffused with a blush of pink or purple. The forewing showing much darker coloured sex scale markings in the shape of prongs often compared to a trident. The female carries a purple to purple-blue wing colour on the upper side and has a wide dark brown wing edge. The wing underside for both male and female is of a dull greyish beige with lots of tiny dark irregular markings.
While the adult butterfly is fascinating in colour and appearance, the real beauties are the varying offspring stages. The tiny egg, only about 0.6mm in diameter, carries a very intricate pattern of ridges and light green depressions. Subsequently, the various instar stages of the larva seem to have taken a leaf out of a fairytale book. They come in multiple soft colours ranging from cream to pink, yellow and orange as well as green tones, all adorned with horizontal and diagonal markings and equipped with darker tipped spine like protrusions. The protrusions are still there when the transformation into a brown pupa has occurred, albeit much shorter, less pronounced and somewhat blunt.
In Brisbane and the rest of SE Queensland larvae feed on the buds and flowers of Dogwood (Jacksonia scoparia), a plant recently introduced on our facebook page, existing in poorer soil conditions. When buds or flowers aren't available the larvae have been observed to feed on the young shoots of the plant.
Males are known for their hilltopping behaviour and a preference of smaller shrubs for their perching position. Females can usually be found among lower plants and groundcovers. Adult copper pencil-blues seem to prefer flying relatively low, not much above the ground.
If you are a rehabilitator and have the right habitat conditions, namely open woodland or dry eucalypt forest, both with poor soils, plant lots of Dogwood. The sight of the multicoloured larvae alone is a great reward.
Images: CM - Cliff Meyer; DD - Douglas Dew; GW - Geoff Walker; PS - Peter Samson