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

Lycaena mariposa Fabricius, 1807
Coppers; Reakirt's 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

© Jeremy Gatten  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #6085)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Lycaena mariposa in British Columbia
Details about map content are available here.

Species Information


Reakirt's Copper is easily distinguished from other small butterflies by the appearance of the ventral hindwing. It has a characteristic mottled grey pattern. On the upperside the wings of the male are a darker purple than those of other coppers. The females are brown on the upperside of the wings, with varying amounts of yellow/orange. The Charlotte Copper female has the most yellow and can be confused with females of the Small Copper in northwestern BC. The two species can be distinguished by the ventral hindwing pattern.

Immature Stages



There are three subspecies in BC. The Charlotte Copper, L.m. charlottensis (Holland, 1930) (TL: Queen Charlotte Islands), is found on the Queen Charlotte Islands, in the northern Coast Ranges, and on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The nominate subspecies, L.m. mariposa (Reakirt, 1866) (TL: California), is found in the mountains of Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, and the Cascades. The Rocky Mountain subspecies, L.m. penroseae Field, 1938 (TL: Yellowstone Park, WY), occurs in the rest of the province.

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.


Reakirt's Copper flies from late June to early September, depending on elevation and the snow cover of the previous winter. There is only one generation each year. Pratt and Ballmer (1986) established Vaccinium caespitosum as the larval foodplant for Reakirt's Copper in northern California. In Burns Bog, BC, on 22-23 July 1991, four eggs were observed being laid on Vaccinium uliginosum, five on V. oxycoccus, and two on Andromeda polifolia, all of which are in the family Ericaceae (Richard Beard, pers. comm.).


Reakirt's Copper is found throughout BC in any forest opening or riparian situation where the larval foodplant, Vaccinium (Ericaceae), occurs.



Reakirt's Copper is found from Gravina Island, AK, and extreme southeastern YT south to central CA and northwestern WY.

Status Information

Scientific NameOrigin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
Lycaena mariposaNativeS5YellowNot Listed
Lycaena mariposa charlottensisNativeS5YellowNot Listed
Lycaena mariposa mariposaNativeS4YellowNot Listed
Lycaena mariposa penroseaeNativeS5YellowNot 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: 2024-04-15 4:02:58 PM]
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