Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Small Copper:
Small Copper
Lycaena phlaeas (Linnaeus, 1761)

Small Copper egg.
  Small Copper caterpillar.
  Small Copper chrysalis
Small Copper
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Lycaenidae: Subfamily Lycaeninae : Genus Lycaena: Species phlaeas:
The larvae are hard to find but are best found first by looking for strong growing Sorrel with plenty of leaf growth (often Sorrel lacks leaves suitable for larvae to feed upon). Look for transparent areas of leaf where the larvae has fed beneath the leaves.

Two generations but up to three in the south of England. Usually on the wing May to June and August to September with 3rd brood flying in October and even as late as November.

The Small Copper is prone to variation and albinos can sometimes be found.
The Small Copper lives in a wide variety of habitats where it is warm and dry from roadside verges and disused railway lines to moorland and heath.

The Small Copper is usually found in small colonies often consisting of no more than a few dozen individuals. Individuals may however be seen some distance from a breeding colony. The numbers of Small Copper fluctuates depending upon the weather. Hot summers will usually boost numbers substantially so long as the larvae foodplant is not affected by drought.
Throughout the UK most of Scotland.
Where to see the Small Copper in the British Isles
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Small Copper in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Least Concern Least Concern

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
Sheep's Sorel (Rumex acetosella) Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius).
British subspecies
Lycaena phlaeas ssp. eleus (Fabricius, 1798)
Occurs in England, Wales and Scotland,
Lycaena phlaeas ssp. hibernica (Goodson, 1948)
Occurs in Ireland and possible Isle of Man.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 down by -41%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 down by -8%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not listed (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Small Copper except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Small Copper on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Small Copper can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Small Copper can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Small Copper
Image ID BB2447 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2447 ©
Image ID BB2446 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2446 ©
Image ID BB2445 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2445 ©
Image ID BB2444 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2444 ©
Image ID BB2380 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper male (imago)
BB2380 ©
Image ID BB2379 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2379 ©
Image ID BB2296 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2296 ©
Image ID BB2295 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2295 ©
Image ID BB2012 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2012 ©
Image ID BB2011 - Small Copper - © Steven Cheshire
Small Copper (imago)
BB2011 ©
There are 73 photographs of the Small Copper in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Small Copper as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 27 named aberrant forms of the Small Copper currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. anticentrijuncta - Leeds 1941
ab. anticrassilunulata - Leeds 1941
ab. antilacticolor - Leeds 1941
ab. antitransiens - Leeds 1941
ab. bipunctata - Tutt 1906
ab. centriconjuncta - Tutt 1906
ab. cuneifera - Schultz 1905
ab. cuprinus - Peyerimhoff 1862
ab. extensa - Tutt 1906
ab. fasciata - Strecker 1878
ab. fuscae - Robson 1888
ab. fuscata - Tutt 1906
ab. hubneri - Oberthür 1905
ab. infra-radiata - Tutt 1906
ab. infuscata - Tutt 1906
ab. juncta - Tutt 1906
ab. latomarginata - Tutt 1906
ab. magnipuncta - Tutt 1906
ab. minor - Tutt 1906
ab. obliterata - Scudder 1889
ab. obsoleta - Tutt 1896
ab. parvipuncta - Strand 1902
ab. radiata - Frohawk 1914
ab. schmidtii - Gerhard 1853
ab. supra-radiata - Oberthür 1896
ab. transformis - Leeds 1941
form. caeruleopunctata -  
Small Copper ab.caeruleopunctata
Small Copper ab.obliterata