Lycaena helle

Violet Copper


by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2024

Show butterflies of: EU US
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Jura, France, June 2014

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Vaud, Switzerland, May 2017

Field notes and information

This gorgeous little butterfly has a very patch distribution within its range of central and northern Europe. Where it does occur it is very local and colonies are hard to find. The adults are so small the butterfly is difficult to locate too. As a result it is a difficult species to encounter. It can be common when found but most of my experiences are of just a few individuals.

Identification & Similar species: The butterfly is distinctive and unlikely to be confused with other coppers, Lycaena. The upperside violet sheen is striking and particularly noticeable in the male.

Distribution & Flight: A very patchy distribution from the French Pyrenees, west Switzerland and neighbouring France, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Sweden. It flies from May to July depending on location.

Habitat & Behaviour: Damp meadows and bogs with an abundance of the larval food plant bistort, Polygonum bistorta. It flies discretely over the vegetation and neighbouring meadows. Due to its small size it is difficult to spot and is quickly lost to sight.

I was lucky to see the pictured female lay her egg. She landed on a bistort leaf then walked along the mid rib before suddenly walking backwards towards the edge of the leaf, and onto the underside where she quickly laid her egg.

Variation: Both sexes are highly variable.

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Fribourg, Switzerland, June 2020

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Fribourg, Switzerland, May 2022

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Fribourg, Switzerland, May 2022

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Fribourg, Switzerland, May 2022

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Fribourg, Switzerland, June 2020

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Fribourg, Switzerland, June 2020

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Fribourg, Switzerland, May 2022

Camera shy

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Vaud, Switzerland, May 2020

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Vaud, Switzerland, May 2020

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Jura, France, July 2006

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Vaud, Switzerland, May 2007


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Jura, France, July 2013

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Fribourg, Switzerland, June 2020

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Fribourg, Switzerland, June2021

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Jura, France, July 2013