Butterflies of New
Western Alpine Boulder Copper
Family - LYCAENIDAE
subfamily - LYCAENINAE
Tribe - LYCAENINI
male, Homer Tunnel, South Island, NZ
© Nigel Peace
current classification of the genus Lycaena
is unsatisfactory and in need of revision. The genus is loosely
split into several unofficial groupings, which ultimately will be
classified as sub-genera or new genera. Under existing
classification there are about 70 Lycaena
species, variously distributed across temperate regions of the
There were originally thought to be only 4
Lycaena species in New Zealand i.e.
rauparaha, but the former boldenarum
subspecies tama and
caerulea are now recognised as full
is endemic to New Zealand where it is largely confined to the
western side of the South Island.
This species is
found mainly in damp habitats e.g. along the edges of small streams.
The usual larval foodplant is Muehlenbeckia
axillaris but Rumex flexousus is
also recorded, and it is possible that other
species are also used. The egg is laid singly on a stem or on the
underside of leaves. The larva is variable in colour so may be
olive-green, yellowish-green, pink or reddish-brown, but always has
a diamond-shaped mark on the prothorax. It overwinters when half
grown and resumes feeding in the spring. When not feeding it hides
beneath small stones. It is often found in association with
Chelaner ants but there is no proven
symbiotic link or dependency. The pupa can be either light brown or
reddish, but the abdomen of both forms is speckled with black. It is
secured by the cremaster and a few loose strands of silk to a dead
leaf on the ground.
Males have a rapid erratic flight but
females are more fluttery. Both sexes stay close to the ground, and
are only active in bright sunny conditions.