Hohnes Hill – Eltham Copper Butterfly larvae count

Words by Susie Kumar

It is Friday night, 20th October, lovely conditions, no wind; it’s warmish and close to 9 pm. It is completely dark; from a distance you can see a number of tiny lights bobbing around Hohnes Hill Reserve. There are eight of us (members of Friends of Biodiversity, Hohnes Hill) including wildlife ecologists John Harris and Kathy Himbeck. We are all very gently tip-toeing around in our designated line of travel looking for Bursaria spinosa trees, then checking for the Notoncus ants, then undertaking a closer inspection to see if they are helping young plump Eltham Copper Butterfly larvae to feed.

The larvae prefer Bursaria about one metre high or smaller, as they like the smaller younger leaves.  We even witnessed two larvae emerging from their ant nest homes close to the base of the Bursaria plant. The results are not officially in – however tonight’s count of approximately 49 Eltham Copper Butterfly larvae suggest the colony has grown since last year’s count.  

The event highlights the importance of the excellent and careful weeding work undertaken by the Friends of Biodiversity, Hohnes Hill and reminds us of the very precarious and delicate ecological balance that supports these tiny creatures that make Hohnes Hill their home.

Thank you Wayne Kinrade and Vicky Shukuroglou for guiding us through the evening event.