American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas americana)

American Copper Butterfly

Photograph by Carol Muth

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas americana) sometimes called the Small Cooper or Common Copper is an insect in the Gossamer-winged Butterfly family (Lycaenidae). This butterfly has a wingspan of about one inch (2.54 centimeters), The forewings are orange outlined by a brown to black border. Each forewing has eight to nine brown to black spots. The hind wings are darker with an orange border. Females may have a row of blue spots on the hind wing border. The forewings and hind wings have a thin, light edge. The undersides are similar to the top of the wings but paler. The black spots on the underside of the forewings are outlined in yellow and the dark border is more brown. The undersides of the hind wings have small black dots.

The adult female lays eggs on the underside of leaves and may have as many as three broods in a season. When the larvae hatch, they will feed on the epidermis on the underside of the leaf but will not eat through the leaf. American Copper caterpillars prefer sorrel. Adults sip nectar from flowers. These caterpillars are small, slug-like and can be pink to green in color. They pupate, the development stage between the larvae stage and adulthood, among leaf litter. The American Copper overwinters as a caterpillar.

American Copper butterflies are active from May to midsummer or longer if conditions are right. They are very territorial and protect their territories from other insects. These butterflies are found throughout the northern hemisphere where food is available and as far south as Ethiopia.


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