North American Butterflies and Moths List

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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of Washington

Blue Copper (Lycaena heteronea)
JPG -- species photo

Blue Copper (Lycaena heteronea [Boisduval])

Wing span: 1 1/8 - 1 3/8 inches (2.9 - 3.5 cm).

Identification: Upper surface of male bright blue, with darker veins; female dull blue to dark brown with numerous small dark spots. Underside of both sexes white to yellow-white; hindwing varies from having many to few black spots.

Life history: Most males patrol near host plants for females, but some perch. Females lay eggs singly on bracts under host leaves or umbels; eggs hatch the following spring. Young caterpillars feed on the underside of leaf; older ones eat all parts of the leaf.

Flight: One flight from May-August.

Caterpillar hosts: Wild buckwheat (Eriogonum species) in the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae).

Adult food: Nectar from flowers, including wild buckwheat.

Habitat: Brushy areas, open forest, mountain meadows, sagebrush; mostly at high elevations except for low elevations in central California.

Range: British Columbia south and east through southcentral California, northern Arizona, and northern New Mexico.

Conservation: Lycaena heteronea has The Nature Conservancy Global Rank of G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

Varied Copper (subspecies clara) of southern California has been evaluated for conservation, and has The Nature Conservancy rank of T2 - Imperiled because of rarity (6 to 20 occurrences), or because of other factors demonstrably making it very vulnerable to extinction throughout its range. (Endangered throughout its range).

Management needs: None reported.


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:

Hinchliff, J. 1996. The Distribution of the Butterflies of Washington. 
     Evergreen Aurelians. Oregon State University Bookstore, Corvallis.

Layberry, R.A., Hall, P.W. & Lafontaine, D.J., 1998.  The Butterflies of 
     Canada.  University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON.  280 pp. 
Opler, Paul A. 1999. Peterson Field Guide to Western Butterflies, revised 
     edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass.

Pyle, R.M. 1974. Watching Washington Butterflies. Seattle Audubon Society, 
     Seattle, Wash.

Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western USA Butterflies. 
     Privately published, Denver, Colo. 

Tilden, J.W. and A.C. Smith. 1986. A Field Guide to Western Butterflies. 
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass.
Blue Copper (Lycaena heteronea)
distribution map
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