Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas

Scientific Name: Lycaena phlaeas (Lycaenidae Lycaeninae). 

English Name: Small Copper (Gossamer-winged butterfly family, Coppers sub-family). 

French Name: Le Bronz√© (='suntanned'); le Cuivre commun (='common copper'). 

5 Key Characters:
  • small (29 - 35 mm wingspan).
  • orange red band on the upperside of the hind wings.
  • forewings tawny orange with dark markings.
  • hind wings a distinctive shape (with a little 'tail').
  • underside of the hind wings grey or beige, only faintly spotted. 

Lookalikes: Large Copper Lycaena dispar, which is much rarer, bigger and much more strongly spotted on the underside of the hind wing. Sooty Copper L. tityrus, which does not have a tail and has orange crescents along the edge of the hind wing, not a band.

Habitat: All sorts of open places, especially sandy places and sunny fallow agricultural land. Often seen with open wings angled to the sun. 

Flight Period: February-March-April-May-June-July-August-September-October-November. 

Caterpillar and Host Plant: Docks (Garden Sorrel Rumex acetosa, Sheeps Sorrel R. acetosella, R. intermedius, Fiddle Dock R. pulcher, French Sorrel R. scutatus).

Status: Very widely distributed and despite the population having declined by 50% since 1990, still abundant. A Grassland Indicator Species (monitored to provide a means of predicting the ecological health of natural grassland habitat). 

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

Note the very small spots on the underside of the hind wing.

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