Friday 17 May
Large copper butterfly (Lycaena dispar)
Large copper butterfly fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Large copper butterfly description
The large copper butterfly (Lycaena dispar) has wings of a bright coppery-orange, fringed with black. The undersides are silvery-blue with black spots. Some specimens have several black spots on the upper wing. The caterpillars are green.
- Wingspan: 38 mm
- Body length: 15 mm
Large copper butterfly biology
The large copper butterfly emerges in July and lays its eggs on the leaves of great water dock (Rumex hydrolapathum). The caterpillars feed until the end of September, on the undersides of the leaves; their feeding leaves a characteristic 'window' since the upper part of the leaf is not eaten. They then hibernate over the winter among the old leaves of the dock. They re-emerge in April and feed until June when they enter the pupation stage of their lives. Not a lot is known about the habits of the adult butterflies, but they may be able to disperse over several kilometres, perhaps as far as 20 kilometres.Top
Large copper butterfly range
Once widespread on the fens of East Anglia, particularly in Cambridgeshire, the large copper butterfly was declared extinct in Britain in 1851. Elsewhere, it is distributed over a large area of Europe, reaching into Asia. There are three recognised subspecies, the one most closely related to the extinct British butterfly being found mainly in the Netherlands.Top
Large copper butterfly habitat
The large copper butterfly is found in open fenland habitats.Top
Large copper butterfly status
The large copper butterfly is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Large copper butterfly threats
The biggest cause of the extinction of the large copper butterfly in Britain was undoubtedly the draining of the East Anglian fens in the 18th and 19th centuries. As populations fell, collecting played a part in the disappearance of the butterfly, eliminating it from the few remaining sites.Top
Large copper butterfly conservation
Since its disappearance, a number of attempts have been made to re-introduce the large copper using the two subspecies. However, all so far have failed. In 1927, and again in 1955, another attempt began using the Dutch subspecies, at Woodwalton Fen in Cambridgeshire. The butterflies were kept and bred in a greenhouse and, periodically, specimens were released on to the fen. This project, too, has had little success at re-establishing the butterfly and the greenhouse at Woodwalton Fen has now been moved to Long Sutton Butterfly Park, with another station being set up at Stratford Butterfly Centre.
The large copper butterfly was added to the UK Biodiversity Action Plans (UKBAP), and is included in English Nature’s Species Recovery Programme (SRP). In 1993, studies on parts of the Norfolk Broads began, to ascertain whether suitable re-introduction sites could be found. This project is in partnership with the Dutch Authorities, and it is hoped that it will not be too long before this attractive insect is re-established in the UK.Top
Find out more
Find out more on butterfly conservation:
Information supplied by English Nature.
- A winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal's metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is 'diapause', a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
- The process of becoming a pupa, the stage of an insect's development, when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form. In butterflies the pupa is also called a chrysalis.
- A different race of a species, which is geographically separated from other populations of that species.
IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.