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

Lycaena helloides Fabricius, 1807
Coppers; Purplish 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
Photo of species

© Val George  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #66277)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Lycaena helloides in British Columbia
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Species Information

Click on the image(s) below to view an expanded illustration for this taxon.

Illustration Source: Butterflies of British Columbia by Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard © Royal BC Museum


The Purplish Copper is very similar in appearance to the Dorcas Copper but the two species do not occupy the same range. The Purplish Copper is larger and females have much more of the upperside ground colour yellow/orange rather than brown. There is also more orange in the submarginal band on the ventral hindwing of both sexes.

Immature Stages

The egg is a white, flattened sphere. The mature larva has a light brown head and apple green body with a yellowish spiracular line. The pupa is initially green. First-generation pupae turn dark fuscous (GAH).


None. The type locality of the species is San Francisco, CA.

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.


In BC the Purplish Copper has two generations each year, with adults flying from late May to early July and again from mid-August to mid-September. Hardy (GAH) observed second-generation females in captivity laying eggs on Polygonum persicaria on 8-9 September. The eggs overwintered and hatched on 5-12 April the following year. The larvae pupated between 6 and 22 June. The adults emerged between 27 June and 11 July. Jones (1940) reported Polygonum amphibium L. as a larval host on G.J. Spencer's authority, and oviposition on P. amphibium has been observed near Riske Creek by CSG. Hardy (GAH) reared it from Rumex crispus. Chambers (1963) and Scott (1992) record several Rumex species and Polygonum species as oviposition plants. In Colorado the Purplish Copper also overwinters in the egg stage.


The Purplish Copper is found throughout southern BC in disturbed, roadside, and pasture habitat, and naturally in riparian situations. Throughout its range, the species has taken advantage of disturbed habitat.



The Purplish Copper occurs from southern BC and AB south to Baja California and NM. It also ranges east to the Great Lakes of CAN and USA. There is evidence that the species has invaded the eastern part of its range in historic times (Opler and Krizek 1984).

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) 2021. 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: 2022-05-25 3:19:41 AM]
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