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

Lycaena heteronea Fabricius, 1807
Blue Copper; Coppers
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

© Norbert Kondla  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5157)

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Distribution of Lycaena heteronea in British Columbia.
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Species Information


The male Blue Copper is the only copper in which the upper surface of the wings is blue, like the blues of the subfamily Polyommatinae. It is larger than any blue that occurs in BC. Also, it is observed only in immediate proximity to the larval foodplant, where the only other blues are all about half as large. In females the dorsal wings are brown, with some infusion of blue at the base of the wings. Both sexes have the median spots on the underside of the wing reduced or absent and the ground colour is a dirty white.

Immature Stages

Both larvae and pupae of California populations are various shades of green and are camouflaged on the foodplant (Williams 1910).


BC populations of the Blue Copper are the nominate subspecies, L.h. heteronea Boisduval, 1852 (TL: Cavallo Point/Yellow Bluff, near Sausalito, Marin Co., CA [Emmel et al. 1998a]). This subspecies occurs in all of the species' distribution except southern California.

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 Blue Copper flies from late June at the lowest elevations to mid-August at the highest elevations (2,300 m). Williams (1910) recorded Eriogonum sp. as the larval foodplant, and Comstock (1927) confirmed this. Scott (1992) observed oviposition on Eriogonum umbellatum and E. umbellatum var. majus. Emmel and Emmel (1973) state that the egg is the overwintering stage. In BC the species is associated with Eriogonum sp., but the BC populations have not been reared.


The Blue Copper is found from the Chilcotin grasslands south through the Southern Interior and the West Kootenay in sagebrush, ponderosa pine, and dry subalpine ridges where the larval foodplant is found. It is not recorded from the East Kootenay but should be found in the Flathead River drainage, where the foodplant, Eriogonum (Polygonaceae), occurs, along with other Eriogonum-feeding Iycaenids.



The Blue Copper is found from southern BC and AB to southern CA and northern NM.

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: 2020-07-12 5:19:49 AM]
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