Small Copper Butterfly - Lycaena phlaeas, click for a larger image
Photo ©2006
Johanna Lance, FBCP
Click photo for a larger image

Small Copper Butterfly - Lycaena phlaeas
Family - Lycaenidae
Also known as - American Copper

Common and widespread throughout Europe and resident in the UK, the Small Copper is a very active beautiful butterfly that has a wingspan of 25-30mm (1-1.2in).  Named after its bright copper coloured forewings, the upper side of which is a yellowish orange with a broad, brown margin and black spots.  The hind wing is brown with an orange band near the margin.  The underside of both wings are a greyish brown with a pattern similar to that of the upperside.  It will be found in a variety of rough grassland where the Caterpillar's food plants, sorrels and docks occur.  It flies between April and November and has two to three broods.  The adult butterfly feeds on nectar whilst the Caterpillar feeds on the various species of Sorrel and Dock eating the surface of the leaf leaving a characteristic pattern of transparent areas.

Eggs are laid singly on the underside of leaves of the food plant.  The Small Copper hibernates as a Caterpillar.  It will be found in grasslands, wasteland, heathland, embankments, road verges and woodland rides.  This sun-loving fast flying butterfly is often found resting on the ground, vegetation or flowers, absorbing the sun's rays, it flies up to intercept any passing butterfly.  The bright green caterpillars are covered with tiny hairs.  Information is that the Small Copper is the last remaining copper butterfly in Britain since the Large Copper became extinct in the mid 1800's.  Re-introduction attempts of the Large Copper have apparently have been unsuccessful.

Bradley & Fletcher #1561

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