Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Common Copper Butterfly

The common copper butterfly, Lycaena phlaeas. Click to enlarge. 
This little butterfly would be easy to miss if not for the flashes of bright orange as it flits about in its active flight. The butterfly is only about an inch across. It usually flies within a few feet of the ground, often landing and spreading its wings; that's the time to sneak up and take a close look.

Its forewings are orange with black spots and a gray border; underneath they are similar but lighter colored. The hind wings are gray above with orange patches at the rear; underneath they are lighter gray with black spots and a zigzagged orange line at the edge. As is typical for members of the butterfly family Lycaenidae, the common copper has black-and-white ringed antennae and its eyes are outlined with white.

Striped antennae and white-ringed eyes! 
The common copper is also called the American copper and the small copper. It is found throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and in some parts of North Africa, visiting habitats from woodland clearings to city lots. But only when it's warm and the plants are green. This is about the end of the season for common copper butterflies in New England. Or, as Mother Goose would say:

Butterfly, Butterfly,
Whence do you come?
I know not, I ask not, 
Nor ever had a home. 
Butterfly, butterfly, 
Where do you go?
Where the sun shines, 
And where the buds grow. 


  1. Beautiful capture Julie. You are so right about these beauties being easily missed. I only was able to record my first this spring. They are so strikingly stunning with open wings. Love the MG!

    1. Thank you :-)

      They are indeed fast and hard to follow!