Image Credit: Nathan L. taken by the Pawtuxet River in Warwick, RI
Though found on other continents, the American Copper is one of North America's most popular and wide-ranging butterflies.
Thought to have emigrated from Europe, the American Copper adapted well to its new home. Ranging throughout almost every state and province, the American Copper is ubiquitous, and can be found in a variety of habitats. In the east, look for them in fields and pastures as well as roadsides and meadows. In the west, look for them in higher elevations on hiking trails and outcroppings of vegetation among the rocks. Adults are active from mid-spring through the end of autumn. They drink nectar from a variety of flowers like clover, yarrow and buttercups.
When resting with wings flat, one can admire the bright orange color that covers most of the forewings of the American Copper. The hindwings are mostly brown with a faint black circle near the midline on each. Both sets of wings are bedecked with medium-sized black dots; spread out on the forewing, and along the bottom edge of the hindwing. A white fringe borders all wings. When the wings are raised, The American Copper looks like an altogether different butterfly. The rich tawny brown is replaced with whitish-gray. The underside of the forewing is still largely orange, but the hindwing is mostly gray with three rows of small black dots. A thin, bright, orange-red line traces the bottom edge of the hindwing near the fringe.
Caterpillars of the American Copper are fond of eating the leafy parts of sheep and alpine sorrel, a plant from the buckwheat family. Curly dock, another ground-level leafy plant, is also preferred. Their bodies are green and plump, completely covered in very short hairs. The side of each segment has a tiny yellow dot and its tail end tapers. Two to four broods can be produced in one year with more occurring in the warmer states of the U.S. and Mexico.
Scientific Name: Lycaena phlaeas
Other Name(s): Common Copper, Flame, Copper, Small Copper
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 22mm to 28mm (0.86in to 1.09in)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.