- Genetic techniques are important tools for conservation, but tissue sampling for DNA analysis can be particularly detrimental to small study organisms. Historically, obtaining DNA samples from small insects and butterflies has involved destructive (lethal) methods.
- Recent improvements to DNA purification technologies have increased the likelihood that non-lethal sampling will be successful. In spite of this, only a few studies have evaluated the impacts of sampling on survival and behaviour.
- The Hermes copper, Lycaena hermes (Edwards), butterfly has a restricted distribution and generally less than 10 individuals are encountered at any one location. Non-lethal DNA sampling would allow for genetic studies that have the potential to augment conservation decisions without causing local extirpations.
- We demonstrate that removing a leg from an adult male Hermes copper does not have a measureable effect on their survival, longevity or behaviour. In addition, a single leg provides a sufficient DNA sample for amplified fragment length polymorphism studies.
- The Hermes copper butterfly represents the smallest butterfly species for which the survival and behaviour has been assessed in relation to non-lethal tissue sampling. This suggests that research involving smaller and more delicate species could utilise leg removal as a non-lethal genetic sampling technique.