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Small Copper

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Open grassy fields, downlands and even heathland are the places to look for the brilliantly coloured small copper butterfly.


  • Small Copper: butterfly not policeman

    Post date: Wednesday, 13 May, 2015 - 00:00

    Open grassy fields, downland and even heathland are the places to look for the brilliantly coloured small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) butterfly. It is not that common but it is widespread and is not unusual in suitable habitat in Dorset.

    It is an unusual butterfly in that it has three broods a year, possibly even four in hot years with an Indian summer. That means that you can see them any time from May right through to November. In good years there will be more adults flying from the later broods so they seem far more common in late summer. The larvae feed on sorrel and other species of dock and then overwinter as a larvae which hibernates. Sadly, the small copper really suffers in bad weather and that can have a significant impact on population levels.

    A real treat to behold when it opens its wings to soak up the warmth of the sun.


  • Small Copper in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

    Post date: Monday, 22 April, 2019 - 21:04

    Despite its vibrant orange (or copper) colouring the small copper is a member of the hesperiidae, or blue butterfly, family. It is an active butterfly and one happy at operating near ground level and so it is easy to see. It has three broods each year so there is rarely a time from April to October when it cannot be found. The small copper is most at home in sunny locations whether that be grassland, heath, woodland rides, hedgerow banks, disused railways, parks or gardens; it is a frequently recorded species here in Dorset especially as it is quite distinctive in appearance too.

    There are sixty two reports of small copper in the Nature of Dorset database for 2017 and 2018 combined. True to form the first emerge in early April (one was even seen in the last week of March in 2019) and then there are records for most weeks right through until week 44 at the end of October; there are also a couple of records from November too. There is a short gap between week 23 and week 27 in June after the first brood is over and the second brood is awaited. There is also a short lean spell around the beginning of September as the third brood is awaited.

    Nearly thirty sites have reported small copper in the two years for which there is data and the bulk of these are predominantly chalk or limestone grassland and the distribution map reflects this but there are reports from heathland and urban sites too with the undercliffe at Boscombe and Southbourne being a good place for them.


Common Name Small Copper
Scientific Name Lycaena phlaeas
Species Group Lycaenid Butterflies Blues and Hairstreaks
Interest Level
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Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
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Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Lycaenid Butterflies Blues and Hairstreaks