Mariposa Copper (Lycaena mariposa) (Reakirt, 1866)

Diagnosis: This small, western copper (wingspan: 23 to 28 mm) is most easily recognized by the greyish-brown hindwing underside with a submarginal row of white chevron markings. The upperside looks similar to other coppers, with the females having much more orange colouring than males.

Subspecies: Subspecies penrosae occurs throughout the Canadian range except for the Queen Charlotte Islands and northern Vancouver Island, where the dark, more heavily spotted subspecies charlottensis is found.

Range: Mainly a western mountain species, mariposa is widespread throughout British Columbia, Alberta, and three records in northern Saskatchewan. It ranges north to Haines Junction, Yukon and Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. There is an isolated population in the Cypress Hills in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: None in Canada.

Early Stages: Very little is known about the life history of this species. The foodplant is usually reported to be Douglas's Knotweed (Polygonum douglasii) (Hooper, 1973; Bird et al., 1995). However, Pratt and Ballmer (1986) report it to be Vaccinium arbuscula in northern California, and three recently discovered colonies in bogs at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, as well as the colonies in the Queen Charlotte Islands, are beyond the range of the knotweed.

Abundance: This tends to be a local species, but it can be common where found.

Flight Season: The adults are normally on the wing from mid-July to the end of August.

Habits: Mountain meadows are the most characteristic habitat for this species, particularly near coniferous woods edges, but subspecies charlottensis is a bog inhabitant. Hooper (1973) reports that it is frequently found near Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa). It can be encountered at sea level on the west coast. Males can be found at wet patches on trails and the species regularly visits wildflowers.

Remarks: The underside of mariposa has a totally different appearance from all other coppers.

© 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.