Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

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Wingspan: 30-35 mm.

A common butterfly of dry fields and heaths often visiting flowers and chasing awy other butterflies in quick darting flights. The first Europaen emergences is in April-May, and a second generation in July - August


Lycaena phlaeas














Larval Foodplant : Sorrel and Dock

Small Copper are usually seen in ones and twos, but in some years large numbers may be found at good sites. Males are territorial, often choosing a piece of bare ground or a stone on which to bask and await passing females. They behave aggressively towards any passing insects, returning to the same spot when the chase is over. I have seen them chase larger peacocks

Though it remains a common and widespread species, the Small Copper declined throughout its range during the twentieth century.


Wingspan, 30-35mm.

Both sexes have very similar colour-patterning. The upper surfaces of the forewings are orange brown with a dark brown band down the outer edge and a number of dark brown spots on their outer half. The upper surfaces of the hind wings are grey brown with an irregular, orange brown band along their hind margins. The under surfaces of the forewings are orange brown with a dusky outside border and a number of white-edged dark spots. The undersides of the hind-wings are a warm grey brown with an indistinct orange band just inside their hind margins and small dark spots scattered over the inner two thirds of each wing.


Behaviour and life history

The Small Copper forms rather loose colonies centred on their larval food plants and adults spend much of their time making short flights around the breeding site looking for females and feeding on flowers. Males are particularly fond of positioning themselves on flowers to bask in the sun and from which they launch attacks against any other small butterflies intruding onto their territory. This species typically has three broods a year with the third generation caterpillars over-wintering. The over-wintering caterpillar pupates at the end of March or beginning of May and first brood adults are on the wing in early May. After a developmental period of about two months, the second brood adults emerge in the first half of July and the third brood in late September / early October. The preferred food plants of the caterpillars are Docks and Sorrels - Sheeps Sorrel, Rumex acetosella, and Common Sorrel, Rumex acetosa.


Where to look for it

The Small Copper favours warm, species-rich short grassland such as is found in non-intensively managed fields, cemeteries, cliffs and woodland rides. It is also commonly found on derelict and waste sites such as old quarries and abandoned railway lines as well as on heathland.


Distribution and status

Similar species

This brightly colour-patterned species is unmistakeable for any other.