Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe) (Boisduval & Le Conte, [1835])

Diagnosis: This very small copper (wingspan: 17 to 22 mm) is grey brown on the upperside with a bright purplish sheen on the wings of the male. Males have a large black dot in the middle of each wing on the upperside with the other spots smaller and inconspicuous; all the spots are prominent in females. The underside is white, yellowish to cream, or silvery grey, depending on subspecies, with small black dots and a thin zigzag submarginal band of orange.

Subspecies: There are three recognized subspecies in Canada. Populations in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are subspecies phaedra, with a chalky-white underside. Populations in southern New Brunswick and southeastern Quebec are the nominate subspecies (subspecies epixanthe), with a yellow underside. Populations through central Quebec and Ontario to Manitoba are subspecies michiganensis, with the underside of the forewing pale yellow and the underside of the hindwing pale grey.

Range: The Bog Copper is found in a band from Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba east to St. John's, Newfoundland. It has recently been found in Quebec north to km 433 on the James Bay Highway. In the eastern U.S. it is found south to Virginia.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The Dorcas Copper (L. dorcas) and Purplish Copper (L. helloides) are larger, with more black spots on the upperside, and have an orange-brown ground colour on the underside. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larva is bluish green with short white hairs. There is a dark green band on the dorsal surface and darker green dashes on the sides. It feeds on cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon and V. oxycoccos). The eggs, laid on the underside of the tiny leaves, are capable of withstanding complete submergence through the winter.

Description of this image follows
Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe
) male. Byron Bog, London, Ont.
J. Cossey

Abundance: Although localized to bogs and fens, it can be quite common in some sites, particularly in the eastern part of its Canadian range.

Flight Season: Recorded from mid-June to mid-July at Ottawa, the Bog Copper flies later farther north and west, from late July to mid-August in Manitoba.

Habits: This butterfly should only be looked for in wet, boggy habitats flying slowly and low to the ground. It often alights on cranberry plants; adults feed almost exclusively on cranberry blossoms.

Remarks: The Bog Copper varies greatly from one location to another, but is rather uniform at any given location. Near Quebec City where subspecies epixanthe and michiganensis come together, each bog has only one form or the other, and both the yellow and grey hindwing forms breed true in the laboratory. Hybridization experiments have not been made.

In 1987, the Bog Copper was seen by RAL flying with the Dorcas Copper in three bogs on the James Bay Highway, Quebec; it always kept to the more open, grassy part of the bogs, while dorcas preferred the shrubby borders.

© 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.