E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Lycaena cupreus Fabricius, 1807
Coppers; Lustrous Copper
Family: Lycaenidae (Gossamer Wings)
Species account authors: Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard.
Extracted from Butterflies of British Columbia
The Families of Lepidoptera of BC
Introduction to the Butterflies of BC

© Ian Gardiner  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5998)

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Distribution of Lycaena cupreus in British Columbia.
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Species Information


The Lustrous Copper is the only BC butterfly in which the entire upperside of both wings is a bright copper colour. The ventral hindwing is a dull chalky white. The Lustrous and Small Coppers are the only alpine coppers, and occur together in the BC Coast Range on Big Dog Mountain.

Immature Stages

Scott (1992) partially described the immatures. The egg is white, changing to dirty white, which matches the colour of the rocks on which the egg is often laid, next to the larval foodplant. The mature larva is green with only faint markings. The pupa is a typical lycaenid brown.


The BC and Alberta subspecies, L.c. henryae (Cadbury, 1937), was described from "Caribou Pass," near Pink Mountain. This subspecies has the smallest spots on the underside of both wings, especially the hindwing, giving the ventral hindwing a washed-out appearance. It ranges south to Okanogan Co., WA, and Glacier National Park, MT. This pattern is similar to that of Colorado populations, but geographically intermediate populations from ID, WY, and southern MT have larger spots. Thus L.c. henryae must be considered a valid subspecies.

Genus Description

The name Lycaena is most likely derived from the Greek Lukaios (Arcadian), as several of the species names are those of Arcadian shepherds (Emmet 1991). The common name refers to the copper-coloured wings of most species. It was first used in North America by Emmons (1854).

The characteristics given for the subfamily also define the genus as used in BC. The larvae of northern Palearctic species all feed on plants of the family Polygonaceae, such as Rumex (dock/sorrel) and Polygonum (knotweed). Most North American species also feed on these genera, but some feed on Eriogonum or Oxyria (Polygonaceae), Potentilla (Rosaceae), and Vaccinium (Ericaceae). There are 15 North American species, of which nine occur in BC.


The adult Lustrous Copper flies from mid-July to mid-August. Where it occurs with the Small Copper in Alberta, it always emerges before the Small Copper, but they fly together in the BC Coast Range. In Colorado, Scott (1992) has observed females ovipositing on Oxyria digyna (Polygonaceae); this plant occurs in the BC range of the Lustrous Copper. Elsewhere the species is associated with Rumex sp. (Scott 1992).


The Lustrous Copper is found across mainland southern BC at and above timberline, and north in the Rockies to near Pink Mountain.



The Lustrous Copper ranges from near Pink Mountain in the northern Rockies south to CO with disjunct populations in southwest OR and CA.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS5YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-05-28 5:52:45 PM]
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