Blue Copper (Lycaena heteronea) Boisduval, 1852

Diagnosis: Unlike any other copper, the males of this species have a bright blue upperside with faint black spots. The females are greyish brown, with prominent black spots and a blush of orange. The underside in both sexes is white with black dots, fewer on the hindwing in Canadian populations. Wingspan: 26 to 33 mm.

Subspecies: In Canada, only the nominate subspecies is found.

Range: The Blue Copper is restricted in Canada to southern British Columbia and southwestern Alberta. In British Columbia it is found in the interior valleys, including the Fraser and Okanagan Valleys. Local populations in Alberta are found north to Highwood River in the Kananaskis Valley.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: This species resembles the female of the Ruddy Copper (L. rubida) and the male of Boisduval's Blue (Icaricia icarioides), which has better defined black spots, with white rimson the hindwing underside, and lacks black spots on the forewing upperside. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is pale green with whitish lines and covered with white hair. It feeds on various species of buckwheat (Eriogonum spp.), in the Polygonaceae.

Abundance: The Blue Copper is common over most of its range.

Flight Season: Adults have been recorded from April into July in British Columbia, but mostly in July and August in its restricted Alberta range.

Habits: This tends to be a butterfly of mountain canyons, meadows, and sagebrush areas in Canada. It regularly visits the flowers of wild buckwheat along with some of the blues. It is best recognized on the wing by its faster flight and large size.

Remarks: The unique colour of this copper has led to speculation on its convergent evolution with blues. It feeds as a larva on the same foodplants as blues in the genus Euphilotes.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.