Welcome to the fascinating world of the Brenton Blue butterfly!

The Brenton Blue butterfly, Orachrysops niobe, was first discovered during a visit to Knysna 150 years ago, in 1858, by Roland Trimen, curator of the South African Museum in Cape Town. It was not seen again anywhere else until it was found again at Nature’s Valley in 1977 by Dr Jonathan Ball, a Cape Town radiologist and butterfly expert. Unfortunately, the butterfly had disappeared from Nature’s Valley by the late 1980s, as more and more houses were built there.

Ernest Pringle, an Eastern Cape farmer and butterfly enthusiast as well, discovered the location of the colony at Brenton-on-Sea in November 1991 (following earlier sightings by Dr Ball). This colony is the only known remaining place where this butterfly occurs, despite intensive searches along the Southern Cape coast by many butterfly experts (lepidopterists).

The Brenton Blue, which belongs to the Lycaenid family of butterflies, became a conservation icon in the 1990s after a widely publicised and supported campaign to ensure its survival. The Brenton Blue Trust brought together all the key role players interested in saving the butterfly, including prominent NGOs, such as the Green Trust, the Wildlife Society and the EWT, as well as governmental institutions such as CapeNature.

All these efforts have culminated in proclamation of the only special nature reserve in South Africa at Brenton-on-Sea. Research into the ecology of the butterfly over the last ten years has informed management of the reserve and the butterfly population is thriving. The public and tourists are invited to visit our information centre at the Brenton Community Hall opposite the reserve where they can view a stunning video, showing the butterfly’s life history. The reserve normally is not open to the general public, because of the sensitivity of the environment, but those who wish to see the butterfly flying, during November and February, can apply to join an exclusive tour guided by a butterfly specialist.

The Brenton Blue butterfly’s scientific name – Orachrysops niobe - comes from the tragic figure, Niobe, in Greek mythology, who turned into a weeping stone after her children were murdered. Let us hope that a similar fate does not befall this beautiful butterfly!