Lycaena helle

Violet Copper

euroButterflies

by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2016

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Photo: helle

Jura, France, June 2014

Photo: helle

Jura, France, July 2006

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.

Photo: helle

Jura, France, June 2014

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Vaud, Switzerland, May 2007

Male.

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Jura, France, July 2013

Photo: helle

Jura, France, July 2013

Photo: helle

Jura, France, June 2008

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Jura, France, July 2013

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Vaud, Switzerland, May 2007