Common Opal Butterfly (Chrysoritis thysbe): What does it look like?
Chrysoritis thysbe male
  • The Common Opal (also called the Thysbe Copper) is a small butterfly with a wingspan of 25-35 mm. Its red-brown wings have shiny mother-of-pearl patches and black spots on the upper surface.
  • It is a member of a large group of butterflies known as the Lycaenids. They have a habit of rubbing their hind wings together when at rest.
  • The Common Opal is endemic to the Cape Floristic Region. It used to be common in coastal areas of the Western Cape on coastal dunes and mountain slopes. The caterpillars feed on leaves of the Bietou (Chrysanthemoides monilifera).
  • The male is territorial; if spends most of its time flying over its habitat. The female spends more time visiting the plants on which she will lay her eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Opal Butterfly (Chrysoritis thysbe): Why is it threatened?
  • Although the Common Opal was once a very common butterfly in Cape Town, it is now classified as Vulnerable on the Red List.
  • The use of poisonous sprays in gardens and agriculture has killed many insects in cities and farming areas, including butterflies.
  • Coastal development has destroyed much of the natural habitat where these butterflies once lived.
  • The caterpillars of the Common Opal butterfly have a symbiotic relationship with indigenous Cocktail Ants (Crematogaster peringueyi). The alien Argentine Ant chases these ants away, but does not protect the Common Opal caterpillar. Without protection the caterpillar is less likely to survive to form a butterfly.
Common opal caterpillar Cocktail ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Opal Butterfly (Chrysoritis thysbe): What can we do?
  • Plant the food plants of indigenous butterflies in school and home gardens to help them to complete their life cycles within an urban environment.
  • Do not use poisons in your garden that could kill butterflies or their caterpillars.
  • Try to control the alien Argentine Ant that chases away the indigenous Cocktail Ant that looks after the caterpillars of the Common Opal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click the buttons to find out more about threatened animals in Cape Town:
 
Cape Galaxias (Galaxias zebratus)
Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus)
Leopard Toad (Amietophrynus pantherinus)
Micro Frog (Microbatrachella capensis)
Common Opal Butterfly (Chrysoritis thysbe)