Ruddy Copper (Lycaena rubida) (Behr, 1866)

Diagnosis: As with most coppers, the males and females differ in coloration. It is most easily recognized by its white undersides, with heavy black spots on the forewings. The male upperside is a deep copper, somewhat darker on the hindwings with only faint black spots. The female has orange forewings with prominent black spots and an orange submarginal zigzag band on the hindwing upperside. Wingspan: 28 to 32 mm.

Subspecies: The Canadian subspecies is sirius.

Range: Essentially a butterfly of mountains and adjacent prairie in the western U.S., it reaches into Canada only in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The Lustrous Copper (L. cuprea) is darker and more heavily spotted. The female of the Blue Copper (L. heteronea) looks similar, but lacks the orange band on the hindwing upperside. [compare images]

Early Stages: Scott (1986) describes the larvae as being brown with a dark reddish mid-dorsal band edged by yellow. In the U.S. they feed on dock (Rumex spp.). In Saskatchewan adults are most often seen in the vicinity of Sand Dock (Rumex venosus) (Hooper, 1973).

Abundance: This is not considered a common butterfly in Canada. However, it can be seen in numbers in the Great Sand Hills north of Tompkins, Saskatchewan (Hooper, 1973).

Flight Season: Adults fly from mid-July to early August.

Habits: The Ruddy Copper prefers drier habitats than most other coppers. It flies very rapidly, often nectaring at flowers.

Remarks: Its fiery orange upperside and contrasting white underside make this a very conspicuous species when it stops to feed on flowers. In Arizona, ants were observed removing newly laid eggs of this butterfly, leading to speculation that, like other lycaenids, there is an association between the larvae and ants (Dornfeld, 1980).

© 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.