Butterflies of Europe
Purple-shot Copper
Lycaena alciphron  ROTTEMBURG, 1775
subfamily - LYCAENINAE
Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron alciphron male, Otočac, Croatia Peter Bruce-Jones

There are over 70 species of Copper butterfly in the genus Lycaena, the vast majority of which are found in the Holarctic region ( North America, Europe and the part of Asia north of the Himalayas ). There are also however at least 5 species in Africa including the Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas, and several in the Oriental region. Additionally there is a single species in Papua New Guinea, and no less than 4 in New Zealand. Australia and South America each have the great misfortune to have not even a single species of this exquisite genus of butterflies.

All Lycaena species are small and of similar shape, and all but a tiny handful have a shimmering fiery copper sheen on their uppersides. Some like virgaureae are almost devoid of markings, while others have irregular or linear bands of dark spots on the forewings, and in some species also on the hindwings. There are 12 species in Europe.

Lycaena alciphron is found in Europe, north Africa, and across temperate Asia to northern China.


This species inhabits sheltered grassy places at elevations between about 50-2500m. It tends to be found mainly in well-drained places such as dry gullies.

Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron alciphron female, Otočac, Croatia Peter Bruce-Jones

The foodplants are Rumex sp: either acetosa or scutatus ( Polygonaceae ) according to subspecies.

Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron alciphron male, Otočac, Croatia Peter Bruce-Jones

Adult behaviour

The adults are usually seen singly, basking with their wings almost fully open, on grass stems, low herbage or bare ground. They are only active in bright sunny conditions.

Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron gordius male, Portugal Gail Hampshire



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