Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides) (Boisduval, 1852)

Diagnosis: This is another copper with a purplish reflection on the upperside in the male and small black spots in both sexes. The hindwing of the male has a narrow scalloped orange band on both wing surfaces. The underside of the hindwings is a dull pinkish tan. The female appears mostly orange on the upperside, unlike other similar coppers. Wingspan: 23 to 33 mm.

Range: Mainly a western species, the Purplish Copper ranges from southern British Columbia to northern Mexico and from there east to southern Ontario. It is widespread in southern British Columbia (Vancouver Island and the interior) and across the southern Prairies. There is an isolated population in the Peace River District of northern Alberta. The most easterly record is from the Toronto area, although there is an erroneous record (Ferris, 1977) from Ottawa.

Similar Species: The Dorcas Copper (L. dorcas) and the Bog Copper (L. epixanthe) are similar. [compare images]

Early Stages: The green larva has yellowish stripes along the top of the body with oblique yellow marks on the sides. It feeds mainly on species of Polygonaceae such as knotweeds (Polygonum spp.) and docks (Rumex spp.).

Abundance: This is usually the commonest copper in western Canada, but it varies in abundance from year to year (Klassen et al., 1989). It is rare and local in Ontario (Holmes et al., 1991).

Flight Season: The Purplish Copper is double-brooded in Canada. Adults of the first generation mostly fly in June and July; the second generation is on the wing in August and September.

Habits: This tends to be a common species of open fields, roadsides, and wet meadows throughout its western range. It is often associated with waste places, and adults sometimes stray far from their larval foodplants.

Remarks: Taxonomic problems and difficulties in identifying the Purplish Copper are discussed under the Dorcas Copper.

© 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.