American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas [Linnaeus])
Wing span: 7/8 - 1 3/8 inches (2.2 - 3.5 cm).
Identification: Upper surface of forewing shiny, fiery orange-red with black spots; hindwing gray with orange-red outer margin. Underside gray; hindwing with submarginal row of orange-red zigzags.
Life history: Males perch on grass or weeds to look for females. Eggs are laid singly on host plant stems or leaves. Young caterpillars chew holes in the underside of leaves; older ones make channels in the leaf tissue. Chrysalids overwinter.
Flight: One flight from July-September for alpine and arctic populations. Two flights in the north from June-July and August-September; three flights in the south from April-September.
Caterpillar hosts: Herbs of the buckwheat (Polygonaceae) family including sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), curled dock (Rumex crispus), and Oxyria digyna.
Adult food: Nectar from many flowers including common buttercup, white clover, butterflyweed, yarrow, ox-eye daisy, and various composites.
Habitat: In disturbed places in the East including pastures, landfills, vacant lots, road edges, old fields; rocky places in alpine habitats, and tundra in the arctic.
Range: Nova Scotia south to Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas; west across Great Lake states to North Dakota. Native populations found in the Arctic and the western mountains.
Comments: Eastern and midwest populations probably result from an introduction from Scandinavia during the colonial period.
Conservation: Not usually required.
The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
Management needs: None reported.
Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates. Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates. Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates. Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.
Author: Jane M. Struttmann
State and Regional References:
Brown, J.W., Real, H.G., and D.K. Faulkner. 1992. Butterflies of Baja California. Lepidoptera Research Foundation, Beverly Hills, Calif. Comstock, J.A. 1927. Butterflies of California. Privately published, Los Angeles, Calif. [Facsimile available from Entomological Reprint Specialists, Los Angeles, Calif.] Dameron, W. 1997. Searching for butterflies in southern California. Flutterby Press, Los Angeles, Calif. Emmel, T.C. Editor. 1998. Systematics of western North American butterflies. Mariposa Press, Gainesville, Florida. Emmel, T. C. and J. F. Emmel. 1973. The Butterflies of Southern California. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Series No. 26. Garth, J.S. and J.W. Tilden. 1986. California Butterflies. California Natural History Guide 51. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles. Langston, R.L. 1981. The Rhopalocera of Santa Cruz Island, California. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 18: 24-35. Miller, Scott E. 1985. Butterflies of the Califorenia Channel Islands. Journal of the Research on the Lepidoptera 23: 282-296. Opler, Paul A. 1999. Peterson Field Guide to Western Butterflies, revised edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. Orsak, L.J. 1977. The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Museum of Systematic Biology, University of california, Irvine. Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western USA Butterflies. Privately published, Denver, Colo. Steiner, J. 1990. Bay Area Butterflies: The Distribution and Natural History of San Francisco Region Rhopalocera. Hayward, Calif.: Hayward State University, Masters Thesis. Tilden, J.W. and A.C. Smith. 1986. A Field Guide to Western Butterflies. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. Tilden, J.W. 1965. Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Region. California Natural History Guide 12. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.