Small Copper

Lycaena phlaeas (ly-SEE-nuh FLEE-uss)

Small Copper male -  Kynance Cove, Cornwall 5-Sept-2014
Photo © Neil Hulme
 

Wingspan
26 - 36mm

Checklist Number
61.001

Family:LycaenidaeLeach, 1815
Subfamily:LycaeninaeLeach, 1815
Tribe:LycaeniniLeach, 1815
Genus:LycaenaFabricius, 1807
Subgenus:  
Species:phlaeas(Linnaeus, 1761)
Subspecies:eleus (Fabricius, 1798)
 hibernica Goodson, 1948

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Introduction

The Small Copper is a fast flying butterfly that, once settled, is unmistakable with its bright copper-coloured forewings. It is a widespread species and a familiar and welcome sight for many naturalists throughout the summer months. This butterfly occurs in discrete colonies throughout the British Isles, but is absent from mountainous areas and far north-west Scotland, the Outer Hebrides and Shetland. Most colonies are fairly small, with just a few adults being seen on the wing at any one time.

Lycaena phlaeas ssp. phlaeas

The species was first defined in Linnaeus (1761) as shown here (type locality: Sweden). The nominate subspecies has not been recorded in the British Isles.

Lycaena phlaeas ssp. eleus

This subspecies was first defined in Fabricius (1798) as shown here (type locality: Germany).

This subspecies is found throughout the British Isles, with the exception of Ireland.

Lycaena phlaeas ssp. eleus (Fabricius, 1798)

Original (Latin)

alis emarginatis fuscis: anticis utrinque disco fuluo nigro punctato, posticis fasciola fulua, subtus cinereis nigro punctatis.

Habitat in Germania.

Affinis certe H. Helle at omnino distincta. Antennae fuscae, albo annulatae, claua oblonga nigra, apice ferruginea. Alae anticae fuscae disco fuluo, nitido punctis maioribus nigris, subtus cinereae disco fuluo punctis subocellaribus atris. Posticae valde emarginatae et fere bicaudatae, fuscae, nitidae fascia abbreuiata dentata, fulua, subtus cinereae punctis minutis nigris strigaque postica obsoleta, fulua.

Translation

Wings brown, notched; the forewings in the discal region reddish yellow on both sides, with black spots, the hindwings with a reddish yellow band, grey beneath, with black spots.

Lives in Germany.

Doubtless related to H. helle but quite distinct. Antennae brown, ringed white, with a black, oblong club, tip rust-coloured. Forewings dark brown with a bright reddish yellow discal region with large black spots, grey beneath with a reddish orange discal region with (small?) black eyespots. Hindwings greatly notched and generally twin-tailed, dark brown, with a bright band with short teeth, reddish yellow, grey beneath with minute black spots and a faint reddish yellow outer band.

Small Copper - Shadowbrook Meadows Solihull 21.05.2014

Male
Photo © Neil Freeman

Small Copper - Stockbridge Down - 24 July 2010

Male Underside
Photo © Clive

Small Copper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-09 (1)

Female
Photo © Pete Eeles

Small Copper - Alners Gorse - 22-08-2013

Female Underside
Photo © Wurzel

Photo Album ...


Lycaena phlaeas ssp. hibernica

This subspecies was first defined in Goodson (1948) (type locality: County Kerry, Ireland).

This subspecies is found throughout Ireland and Goodson's analysis was based on 45 specimens from Co. Kerry, 258 from Co. Cork, 18 from Co. Kildare, 10 from Co. Dublin, 10 from Co. Galway, 1 from Belfast and approximately 160 from England. Based on a small number of specimens, Riley (2007) suggests that the subspecies may be found on the Isle of Man, but acknowledges that "study of a larger sample is required for confirmation".

This subspecies differs from ssp. eleus as follows:

  • 1. On the upperside of the hindwings the copper band is generally broader.
  • 2. On the underside the ground colour is generally greyer than the brown of eleus.
  • 3. On the underside of the hindwings the red marginal band is brighter and more conspicuous.

Lycaena phlaeas ssp. hibernica (Goodson, 1948)

♂ ♀. Upperside. Differs in the broader copper band of the hind wings, which, however, varies to a certain extent, some specimens being comparatively narrow. This is also so in

English specimens, but it is safe to say that the narrowest English specimens are narrower than the narrowest Irish, whilst the broadest Irish are broader than any English.

Underside. The main difference is found here. Ground-colour invariably greyer than English examples, which, by comparison, are of various shades of brown. The red marginal band of the hind wings much more conspicuous and of a brighter hue, always distinct, even brilliant in Irish specimens, whilst in English ones usually narrow, rather dull or obscure. A series of undersides, Irish and English, shows a marked difference in this respect, enhanced by the grey ground of the Irish examples.

♂. Holotype. Co.Kerry, May 23 - June 17, 1920. L.A.E.Sabine (Rothschild collection).

♀. Allotype. Co.Kerry, May 23 - June 17, 1920. L.A.E.Sabine (Rothschild collection).

♂. Paratypes. Co.Kildare, August 11, 1947; Co.Cork, August, 1931; Co.Cork, September, 1931; roundstone, Co.Galway, August 20, 1947. Dudley Westropp.

♀. Paratypes. Co.Kerry, August 24 - September 7, 1920. L.A.E.Sabine (Rothschild collection). Co,Cork, August, 1927. Dudley Westropp.

Small Copper - male - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-5

Male
Photo © Pete Eeles

Small Copper - male - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Small Copper - female - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-8

Female
Photo © Pete Eeles

Small Copper - female - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-6

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1699Small Golden Black-Spotted Meadow ButterflyPetiver (1695-1703)
1717Small Tortoise-shellPetiver (1717)
1766CopperHarris (1766)
1769Small Golden Black-Spotted ButterflyBerkenhout (1769)
1795Small CopperLewin (1795)
1803Common CopperHaworth (1803)
1853Common Small CopperMorris (1853)

Conservation Status

Despite a long-term decline in distribution, this is still a widespread butterfly and is not currently a priority species for conservation efforts.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Not Listed
Decrease-16
Decrease-37
Stable+5
Decrease-19

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

This butterfly favours open land where nectar sources and foodplant are found. Such habitats include grassland, wasteland, heathland, old quarries, embankments, road verges and woodland rides.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

There are typically 2 or 3 generations each year, depending on the weather, with 4 generations in extremely good years. The first adults emerge in May, occasionally at the end of April, with the last adults being seen around the middle of October, depending on location.

Lycaena phlaeas ssp. eleus

Lycaena phlaeas ssp. hibernica

The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Imago

This sun-loving butterfly is often found resting on the ground, vegetation or flowers, as it absorbs the sun's rays. Males establish small territories and fly up to intercept any passing insect in the hope of intercepting a passing female. When egg-laying, females are easy to distinguish from males, as they fly low across the ground searching for suitable foodplants on which to lay. Both sexes roost head down on grass stems.

Adults feed primarily on Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica). Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), Daisy (Bellis perennis), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Hawkweeds (Hieracium/Hypochoeris), Heather (Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp.), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are also used.

Lycaena phlaeas ssp. eleus

Small Copper - Cissbury Ring, Sussex 15-Oct-2013

Photo © Neil Hulme
15-Oct-2013

Small Copper - imago - Thatcham - 11-May-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-May-2007

Small Copper male - Solihull West Midlands 27.07.2014

Photo © Neil Freeman
27-Jul-2014

Small Copper pair - Sussex 31-Aug-2010

Photo © Neil Hulme
31-Aug-2010

small copper female underside barton common 09

Photo © geniculata
11-Sep-2009

Small Copper Pair - Dungeness, kent - 23rd - April - 2017

Photo © Maximus
23-Apr-2017

Small Copper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 20-Jul-10 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2010

Small Copper pair -  Dungeness, Kent 19-June-2016

Photo © Hoggers
19-Jun-2016

Small Copper - Castle Hills Solihull 30.07.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
30-Jul-2013

Small Copper Male - Kenley, Surrey 20-July-10

Photo © Vince Massimo
20-Jul-2010

Small Copper - Alners Gorse - 22-08-2013

Photo © Wurzel
22-Aug-2013

Small Copper pair - Martin Down - 10th August 2012

Photo © Wurzel

Small Copper - female - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014

Small Copper - male - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013

Small Copper - Shadowbrook Meadows Solihull 21.05.2014

Photo © Neil Freeman
21-May-2014

Small Copper - imago - Stockbridge Down - 20-Jul-10 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2010

Small Copper - imago - Ballard Down - 21-Jul-06 (0501)

Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jul-2006

Small Copper male -  Kynance Cove, Cornwall 5-Sept-2014

Photo © Neil Hulme
05-Sep-2014

Small Copper - male - Stockbridge Down - 07-Jul-14

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jul-2014

Small Copper - Kent 24-Sept-2013

Photo © Hoggers
24-Sep-2013

Photo Album (54 photos) ...


Lycaena phlaeas ssp. hibernica

Small Copper - imago - Boston, Clare - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]

Photo © Adrian Riley

Small Copper - imago - Newtownards, Co Down, Northern Ireland - Unknown date (2) [Dave McCormick]

Photo © Dave McCormick

Small Copper - female - Dunquin, Co. Kerry, Ireland - 11-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
11-Aug-2013

Small Copper - female - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - female - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - female - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - female - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-7

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - female - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Small Copper - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Small Copper - male - Boston, Clare - 10-Aug-13-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Aug-2013

Small Copper - male - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - male - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - male - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - male - The Raven, Co. Wexford, Ireland - 12-Aug-13-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Aug-2013

Small Copper - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Small Copper - female - Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve, County Wexford, Ireland - 20-Aug-13-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2013

Photo Album (17 photos) ...


Ovum

Eggs are laid singly, usually on the underside of a leaf of the foodplant, those growing in full sunshine being preferred. The egg is white when first laid, gradually become grey before the larva emerges. Eggs hatch in 1 or 2 weeks.

"On August 19th, 1893, a captured female was placed on a plant of sorrel, when she soon began depositing, many eggs being laid that day. The eggs are laid singly, and firmly attached to the leaf. In captivity several were laid on each leaf, on both the upper and under surface. The egg is 0.60 mm. wide and 0.30 mm. high. It is of a compressed circular form, the micropyle is sunken, and the bast is flattened; it has a bold cellular surface resembling honeycomb, but rather irregular in pattern. The cells are deeply concave; those on the crown are mostly pentagonal, and those on the sides, which are the largest, are hexagonal in shape; the basal cells are small, shallow, and very irregular; the rims of the cells are undulating, rising at each angle, and have a smooth china-like appearance; otherwise the entire surface is finely granulated. The colour is a greenish-grey white tinged with ochreous. They remain unchanged in colour. The eggs commenced hatching on August 23rd, 1893, the egg state lasting six days." - Frohawk (1924)

Small Copper Ovum, Oxenbourne Down, 15/07/2014

Photo © Pauline
15-Jul-2014

Small Copper Ova - Somerset - 28/09/14

Photo © William
28-Sep-2014

Small Copper Ovum, Oxenbourne Down, 15/07/2014

Photo © Pauline
15-Jul-2014

Small Copper ovum - Chaldon, Surrey 25-Sept-09

Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Sep-2009

Small Copper - ovum - Greenham Common - 19-May-16-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-May-2016

Small Copper Ova, First Instar Larva and Feeding Damage - Somerset - 20/09/16

Photo © William
20-Sep-2016

Small Copper eggs, Bookham Commons, 12/10/16

Photo © bugboy
12-Oct-2016

Small Copper egg

Photo © Tony Moore
04-Sep-2013

Small Copper egg laid on stone - Newhaven Tide Mills, Sussex 3-Oct-2015

Photo © bugboy
03-Oct-2015

Small Copper egg - East Lothian, Scotland 25-Aug-2011

Photo © NickMorgan

Small Copper ovum, Noar Hill, 18/08/2015

Photo © Pauline
18-Aug-2015

Small Copper Ova - Somerset - 20/0916

Photo © William
20-Sep-2016

Small Copper Ova - Somerset - 20/09/16

Photo © William
20-Sep-2016

Small Copper egg laid on stone - Newhaven Tide Mills, Sussex 3-Oct-2015

Photo © bugboy
03-Oct-2015

Small Copper Egg

Photo © Gary.N

Small Copper - ovum - Greenham Common - 19-May-16

Photo © Pete Eeles
19-May-2016

Small Copper Ova - Somerset - 28/09/14

Photo © William
28-Sep-2014

Small Copper - ovum - Calstone and Cherhill Downs - 29-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Aug-2013

Small Copper egg (hatched) - Dungeness 16-July-2016

Photo © Hoggers
16-Jul-2016

Small Copper ovum

Photo © Tony Moore
10-Sep-2013

Photo Album (22 photos) ...


Larva

The larva does not eat the eggshell on emerging, but starts to feed on the underside of the leaf. As it feeds it forms characteristic grooves, in which it also rests, leaving the upper surface of the leaf intact. Each groove appears as a transparent area of the leaf when seen from above and can give the presence of a larva away to the trained eye.

Those larvae that overwinter do so in one of the first 3 instars, attached to a pad of silk on the foodplant, such as on leaf or leaf stem. There are 4, sometimes 5, instars.

The primary larval foodplants are Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella). Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius) is also used.

Small Copper larva - East Lothian, Scotland 20-Nov-2011

Photo © NickMorgan

Small Copper - larva - Stockbridge Down - Jun-99 (2) [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Small Copper - larva - Stockbridge Down - Jun-99 (4) [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Small Copper - larva - Stockbridge Down - Jun-99 [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Small Copper larva - East Lothian, Scotland 26-March-2012

Photo © NickMorgan

Small Copper larva - getting bigger

Photo © Tony Moore
01-Oct-2013

Small Copper larva, 18 days old, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
11-Aug-2014

Small Copper larva, 18 days old, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
11-Aug-2014

Small Copper Larval Feeding Damage - Somerset - 18/10/14

Photo © William
18-Oct-2014

Small Copper Larva with silken hibernation pad - Somerset - 07/03/15

Photo © William
07-Mar-2015

Small Copper Larva - Somerset - 04/04/15

Photo © William
04-Apr-2015

Small Copper larva, 07/09/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
07-Sep-2015

Small Copper larva - Formby Point-16Jun2016

Photo © MikeOxon

Small Copper larva - Hampshire 30-Oct-2016

Photo © andy brown
30-Oct-2016

Photo Album (14 photos) ...


1st Instar

"The larva eats a circular hole out of the crown of the egg and emerges. It at once commences to feed on the cuticle of the under surface of the leaf, eating away a small channel just the width of its body; in this depression it rests in a straight position, exactly filling it, so that its back is on a plane with the surface of the leaf, the lateral fringe of hairs surrounding it lying flat on the surface; after making a few meals and lengthening the channel each time, it crawls out to another spot and eats out a fresh groove; this it repeats again and again, so that in a short time the leaf becomes covered with tiny channels, with only the thinnest film of the epidermis of the upper surface remaining. Directly after emergence it measures 1.1 mm. long. The body is widest at the anterior end; the first segment is flattened and projecting over the shining black and olive-ochreous head; the remaining segments are humped dorsally, excepting the last, which is flattened; the sides are sloping, and there is a dilated lateral ridge. Along the dorsal surface are two rows of very long curved pale coloured serrated hairs closely situated in pairs on each segment; they all curve backwards and are amply pectinated; they are whitish at the base, becoming browner at the tip; a sub-dorsal series of shorter and straighter hairs, and a lateral projecting fringe, extends all round the larva, composed of long white hairs, three on each of the segments excepting the first and last, each having a black wart-like base. The hairs greatly increase in front and behind, curving over the head in a long fringe as well as over the anal segment, on which the dorsal pair are of great length and perfectly white like all those composing the lateral series. The shorter sub-dorsal hairs have also black wart-like bases; a sub-dorsal series of dark brown discs; and the spiracles are black. The body is a clear pale ochreous-yellow. On August 31st the larvae were in various sizes; some freshly hatched (from eggs last deposited) to others 2.5 mm. long. When eight days old (2.5 mm. long) it is a clear ochreous-white, with the faintest green tinge. The shape now differs considerably from when first hatched; the first segment, which is large, is compressed, projecting and rounded, overlapping the head and completely covering it from view while at rest; all the remaining segments except the last are much elevated and humped dorsally; it is flattened on the sides to the lateral ridge, which is greatly dilated and overlapping the claspers. They still feed on the cuticle of the under surface of the leaves." - Frohawk (1924)

Small Copper - larva - Stockbridge Down - Jun-99 (3) [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Ist instar Small Copper larva

Photo © Tony Moore
16-Sep-2013

Small Copper larva emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

Small Copper larva emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

Small Copper larva emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

Small Copper larva emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

Small Copper larva emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

Small Copper larva, just emerged, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

Small Copper larva, 1 day old, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
25-Jul-2014

Small Copper larva, 4 days old, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-Jul-2014

Small Copper larva, 4 days old, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
28-Jul-2014

Small Copper Larva and Hatched Ovum - Somerset - 18/10/14

Photo © William
18-Oct-2014

Small Copper Larva - Somerset - 18/10/14

Photo © William
18-Oct-2014

Small Copper larva feeding on Curled Dock - Somerset - 02/10/16

Photo © William
02-Oct-2016

Small Copper - larva (1st instar) - Thatcham - 01-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (1st instar) - Thatcham - 28-Aug-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Aug-2016

Small Copper - larva (1st instar) - Thatcham - 30-Aug-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Aug-2016

Photo Album (17 photos) ...


2nd Instar

"The first moult September 2nd. After first moult eighteen days old it measures 3.5 mm. long. In shape it is similar to the previous stage. The whole of the upper surface, down to the lateral ridge, is sprinkled with brownish hairs varying in length and running in longitudinal rows; some are very short; those on the dorsal area are rather the longest and curve gently backwards. There is considerable variation in the extent of colouring. Some are wholly of a uniform light yellowish-green without markings; others are darker green with a lilac-rose-pink dorsal stripe and a band of the same colour along the lateral ridge continuous round the ends; there are also indistinct sub-dorsal longitudinal lines a little darker than the ground colour. Between these two forms there is every gradation in the depth of the pink markings from the merest indications of pink down to the deep lilac-rose-pink. They continue feeding on the cuticle of the under surface of the leaves." - Frohawk (1924)

Small Copper larva, 8 days old, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
01-Aug-2014

Small Copper larva, 11 days old, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
04-Aug-2014

Small Copper larva, 13 days old, Liphook, 24/07/2014, reared

Photo © Pauline
06-Aug-2014

Small Copper - larva (2nd instar) - Thatcham - 01-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (2nd instar) - Thatcham - 30-Aug-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Aug-2016

Photo Album (5 photos) ...


3rd Instar

"The second moult occurred on September 12th, 1893. After the second moult when twenty-six days old it is 5 mm. long. The entire upper surface is densely clothed with uniformly straight brown hairs all standing erect and not curving as in the previous stage; there are also numerous very minute white dots scattered over the surface. The segments are humped dorsally; the sides very flat, and the lateral ridge is much dilated, and the ventral surface very flat. When viewed endwise it is perfectly triangular. The head is black, blotched with pale greenish-olive and shining; it is hidden under the overlapping anterior segment. Some are uniformly clear green, with the lateral ridge paler yellowish-green; others are striped with rose-pink as in previous stage. In this stage they eat the entire substance of the leaves, thereby perforating them." - Frohawk (1924)

Small Copper - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 01-Sep-16 [REARED]-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 01-Sep-16 [REARED]-9

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (3rd instar) - Thatcham - 01-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Sep-2016

Photo Album (3 photos) ...


4th Instar

"The third moult on September 28th, 1893. After the third moult and shortly before fourth, fifty-five days old, it is 9.50 mm. long. In every respect it resembles the previous stage, excepting the colouring, which is of a more vivid green, and the hairs and white dots are more numerous and the spiracles more distinct and usually of a bright buff colour. The two forms of colouring still occur." - Frohawk (1924)

Small Copper - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 05-Sep-16 [REARED]-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
05-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 05-Sep-16 [REARED]-8

Photo © Pete Eeles
05-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (4th instar) - Thatcham - 05-Sep-16 [REARED]-10

Photo © Pete Eeles
05-Sep-2016

Photo Album (3 photos) ...


5th Instar

"Fourth moult, October 18th, 1893; when sixty-seven days old it measures 12.7 mm. in length. By the middle of October the larvae entered into hibernation, the majority then being in the third skin, i.e., after second moult. They assembled in small companies from three to six on the under side of the leaves. The two specimens figured and described were in advance of the others, especially the pink form, which fed freely during late autumn whenever the temperature was sufficiently warm, but as long as the weather continued cold and dull they both remained still, in a semi-torpid state, resting on the under side of the leaf. By the beginning of November all were in hibernation, resting on a layer of silk, spun on the stems and under surface of the leaves, to which they adhere very firmly. During hibernation the larvae become considerably contracted and arched dorsally. Several fed occasionally when the temperature rose as high as 50 degrees Fah., but some remained motionless for a very long time. One that was kept separate from the rest, which started hibernating at the end of September, remained without moving until December 9th, when the temperature rose above 50 degrees Fah. with bright sunshine. On January 21 st, 1894, the large specimen figured left its hibernaculum, a brown withered leaf, and crawled to a fresh green leaf and fed; a bright sunny day about 50 degrees Fah. On March 2nd, 1894, the large specimen was still feeding and measured 15.9 mm. long, but ceased feeding by March 7th, and roamed about for several days, and on the 14th it spun up for pupating, but did not pupate until 25th, being eleven days undergoing the transformation. The green form was fully grown on March 25th, 1894, being then 147 days old, and spun up on the 27th. When fully grown after fourth moult and after hibernation, 147 days old, it measures 15.9 mm. long. The body is very convex above, rising anteriorly to the fourth segment and sloping posteriorly; both the anterior and posterior segments are rounded, flattened and projecting, the lateral ridge dilated, and the under surface compressed so that the legs and claspers are hidden while resting; the head is completely concealed within the first segment, and only protruded while feeding and crawling. The sides are not so flattened as in the former stages. The colour is a rather deep clear green, some specimens inclining to yellowish-green. The whole of the surface is sprinkled with minute white warts (without hairs) and thickly covered with rather short fine stiff reddish-brown hairs, which appear whitish in some lights and black in others. The head is pale olive marked with black. The whole of the ventral surface is greyish-green, including the legs and claspers. The centre of the anterior segment has a dorsal depression, which is of a whitish colour. The lateral ridge is generally paler than the rest of the body. The spiracles vary from creamy-white to dull orange. Such is the description of the uniformly green form, which is the most common. Some are beautifully adorned with longitudinal stripes of pink, one medio-dorsal and one lateral; the under surface is pinkish-olive and the claspers rose-pink. Both forms of colouring occur after the first moult. The habits of the fully grown larva are the same as the earlier stages. The cast skin is not eaten after any moult." - Frohawk (1924)

Small Copper - larva - Thatcham - 31-Mar-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
31-Mar-2007

Small Copper - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 10-Sep-16 [REARED]-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 10-Sep-16 [REARED]-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 10-Sep-16 [REARED]-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Sep-2016

Small Copper - larva (5th instar) - Thatcham - 10-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
10-Sep-2016

Photo Album (5 photos) ...


Pupa

The larva leaves its foodplant to pupate low down in the vegetation, such as on a dead leaf. The pupa is attached by a silk girdle and the cremaster. This stage lasts around 3 or 4 weeks.

"The pupa measures 10.5 mm. long and is stout, and dumpy in form; the head is blunt and rounded, the thorax rises to a slight dorsal angle, slightly sunken round the middle, the abdomen ample and rounded and much curved posteriorly; the wings are rather swollen at the middle and slightly project at the shoulder. The head, thorax and abdomen are sprinkled with extremely minute processes, resembling the stalk and calyx of a flower, having an expanded serrated apex. They are white and glassy. The surface is also granular. The ground colour is light ochreous-brown, finely speckled with dark amber-brown and spotted with black in longitudinal rows; a brown medio-dorsal streak runs the entire length, and a black spot is placed on each abdominal segment on the streak; the antennae and tongue blackish; legs and wings dark amber-brown; the neuration is clearly outlined with pale ochreous; the spiracles are bullish-white. The surface of the head, antenna:, legs and wings is smooth. It is attached by a silk cincture round the middle and by the cremastral hooks to a silken pad spun on the stem or leaf of the food plant. Description of the pupa when five days old. The imagines emerged during May, 1894, the pupal state lasting between twenty-five and thirty days." - Frohawk (1924)

Small Copper - pupa - Thatcham - 13-Apr-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Apr-2007

Small Copper - pupa - Stockbridge Down - 14-Jul-99 [REARED] [Tim Norriss]

Photo © Tim Norriss

Small Copper Pupa - 2 Days Before Emergence - Somerset - 21/05/15

Photo © William
21-May-2015

Small Copper Pupa - Somerset - 19/04/15

Photo © William
19-Apr-2015

Small Copper Pupa - Somerset - 19/04/15

Photo © William
19-Apr-2015

Small Copper pupa, 26/09/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
26-Sep-2015

Small Copper pupa, 05/10/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
05-Oct-2015

Small Copper pupa, 07/10/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
07-Oct-2015

Small Copper pupa, 07/10/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
07-Oct-2015

Small Copper emerging from pupa, 07/10/2015, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
07-Oct-2015

Small Copper - pupa - Thatcham - 22-Sep-16 [REARED]-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Sep-2016

Small Copper - pupa - Thatcham - 22-Sep-16 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Sep-2016

Photo Album (12 photos) ...


Aberrations

Aberration is fairly frequently met with in this species and even quite small colonies can produce interesting forms year after year. It is always worth having a close look at any Small Copper that you see in the field.

Upperside ground colour can vary from pure silver-white through oranges and fiery reds, to deeply suffused specimens that appear almost entirely black. The amount of copper on the hindwing band can be greatly exaggerated or reduced to the point of absence. The number, size, and shape of the black forewing spots can also vary considerably on both the upperside and underside; and even the tails on the hind wings can be markedly exaggerated in length. Heavy suffusion on the upperside is probably environmentally triggered and can sometimes be met with relative frequency in the autumn generation following a particularly hot summer.

Rarely (as in other species) more than one genetically inherited aberration can be expressed in the same specimen. This becomes particularly impressive where, for example, the silver-white ab. schmidtii also expresses the blue markings on the hindwings known as ab. caeruleopunctata and the reduced forewing markings of ab. bipunctata. Such multiple aberrations are almost unknown in the wild but have been produced in captivity by selective pairing of aberrant imagines through successive generations. There are 140 named aberrations known to occur in Britain.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

No similar species found.

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References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Berkenhout (1769) Berkenhout, J. (1769) Outlines of the Natural History of Great Britain and Ireland (Vol.1 Animal Kingdom).
Fabricius (1798) Fabricius, J.C. (1798) Supplementum Entomologiae Systematicae.
Fabricius (1807) Fabricius, J.C. (1807) Magazin für Insektenkunde, herausgegeben von Karl Illiger.
Frohawk (1924) Frohawk, F.W. (1924) The Natural History of British Butterflies.
Goodson (1948) Goodson, A.L. (1948) New varieties of Argynnis cydippe L. and Lycaena phlaeus L.. The Entomologist.
Harris (1766) Harris, M. (1766) The Aurelian. Edition 1.
Haworth (1803) Haworth, A.H. (1803) Lepidoptera Britannica.
Leach (1815) Leach (1815) In Brewster: The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.
Lewin (1795) Lewin, W. (1795) The Papilios of Great Britain.
Linnaeus (1761) Linnaeus, C. (1761) Fauna Suecica Sistens Animalia Sueciae Regni. Edition 2.
Morris (1853) Morris, Rev.F.O. (1853) A History of British Butterflies.
Petiver (1695-1703) Petiver, J. (1695-1703) Musei Petiveriani centuria prima-decima, rariora naturae continens.
Petiver (1717) Petiver, J. (1717) Papilionum Britanniae Icones.
Riley (2007) Riley, A.M. (2007) British and Irish Butterflies: The Complete Identification, Field and Site Guide to the Species, Subspecies and Forms.