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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Little Copper - Lycaena phlaeas
Other Names:  American Copper


Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3S5

Agency Status
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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 1.3-1.5 cm. Uppersurface of forewing iridescent red-orange with prominent black-brown spots, margin gray, hindwing gray with submarginal zigzag orange-red band lined inwardly with small blue spots; undersurface of forewing paler orange with large black spots in pale halos, hindwing gray with small black spots and zigzag red-orange submarginal line.

Phenology
Several flights in the east, June to September northward, mid-April to mid-October southward; one flight in west (July and August) and far north (July)(Scott 1986). July to early September (Glassberg 2001). Mid-August to early September in Oregon (Pyle 2002; Warren 2005), late July to mid-August in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by a combination of the uppersurface of forewing iridescent red-orange with prominent black-brown spots, margin gray, hindwing gray with submarginal zigzag orange-red band, undersurface of hindwing gray with small black spots and zigzag red-orange submarginal line.

Species Range
Montana Range

Click the legend blocks above to view individual ranges.
 


Range Comments
Holarctic. In North America, possibly introduced across southern Canada and eastern US from western Great Plains to Atlantic Coast, south to northern Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia; native populations across Arctic from Alaska to Greenland, south in Rocky Mountains to Idaho, western Montana, western Wyoming, discontinuous to northeast and southwest Utah; also in central California and northeastern Oregon (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002); above 3048 m elevation in Wyoming and above 2743 m elevation in Idaho (Ferris 1974), 2743 m to at least 4000 m elevation in California (Ferris 1974, Ballmer and Pratt 1989), 2286 m to 2896 m elevation in Oregon (Pyle 2002; Warren 2005), 1219 m to 2500 m elevation in Alberta and British Columbia (Ferris 1974; Kohler 2007). In Montana, reported from nine counties in native range and one historical report from Custer County in introduced range (Kohler 1980, 2007; Stanford and Opler 1993), to 3322 m elevation in the Beartooth Mountains (Ferris 1974), 1920 m to 2107 m elevation in the Sweet Grass Hills (Kohler 2007). Locally rare (Glassberg 2001).

Migration
Non-migratory.

Habitat
For introduced populations in the east: weedy fields, hayfields, roadsides, disturbed sites; for native populations in the west and north: subalpine montane meadows, alpine fellfield above treeline, arctic tundra north of treeline (Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002). In Montana, reported from near and above treeline in alpine terrain of Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (Ferris 1974), in Glacier National Park, Montana reported from montane mesic meadows and riparian habitats (Debinski 1993), in the Sweet Grass Hills reported from lush subalpine meadows (Kohler 2007).

Food Habits
Larval food plants include Oxyria digyna and at least three species of Rumex (Shields and Montgomery 1966; Ferris 1974; Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986, 1992; Ballmer and Pratt 1989). Adults feed on flower nectar, in the west including Erigeron, Mertensia, and Solidago (Kohler 2007; Scott 2014), in the east including Boltonia, Solidago, and Zizia (Tooker et al. 2002).

Reproductive Characteristics
Limited information for North American subspecies. Females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves or stems (Scott 1986). Duration from egg-laying to egg-hatch not reported. Development from egg-hatch to pupation for California subspecies (L. p. hypophlaeas) 13-59 days (mean = 23 days for 4-instar form, 27 days for 5-instar form), adults eclose (emerge from pupae) in 7-9 days. Larvae feed on host plant leaves, overwinter (diapause) as L2-L3 (L4?) instar larvae (Scott 1979; Ballmer and Pratt 1989). Males perch, sometimes patrol, throughout the day low to ground on plants and in rocky nooks, to await or locate females (Scott 1986).

References
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Citation for data on this website:
Little Copper — Lycaena phlaeas.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from