Lycaena phlaeas frontal POV
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|Lycaena phlaeas / Kleine vuurvlinder / Small Copper / Kleiner Feuerfalter / Le Cuivré Commun ou Le Bronzé.|
The Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas is a butterfly in the family Lycaenidae.
Appearance and behaviour:
A common and widespread little butterfly easily identifyable in the UK. (There are similar species in continental Europe). The upperside forwings are a bright orange with a dark outside edge border and with eight or nine black spots. The hindings are dark with an orange border. Some females also have a row of blue spots inside the orange border and are known as form caeruleopunctata The undersides are pattenered in a similar way but are paler. The black spots on the forwings are outlined in yellow and the dark colouring is replaced by a pale brownish, gray. The hindwings are the same brown/grey colour with small black dots and a narrow orange border. The larva varies in colour, usually green but sometimes with a purple stripe down the middle of the back and along each side.
In bright sun it is a very active little butterfly with the males setting up small territories which they will defend vigorously against rival males or indeed any unlucky passing insect. Even the shadow of a large bird passing overhead is enough to get him going. Females are pursued mercelessly and mating usually occurs low down in vegetation.
Distribution and habitat:
It is found in a wide variety range of habitats from chalk downlands, heathland, woodland clearings to churchyards and waste ground in cities and can be found almost anywhere in south/central England and Wales although never, it seems, in large numbers. Its distribution becomes more patchy in northern England, Scotland and Ireland. It is widespread and common across Europe, Asia and North America, and also found in North Africa.
Life cycle and ecology:
Depending on the habitat Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa and Sheeps Sorrel are the two main foodplants although other Docks Rumex spp are occasionally used. The eggs are laid singly on the underside of foodplant leaves and the young larvae feeds on the underside of the leaf creating "windows" by leaving the upper membrane of the leaf untouched. Pupation takes place in the leaf litter and it is thought to be tended by ants. There are between two and three broods a year, less the further north you go. In exceptionally good years a fourth brood sometimes occurs in the south and adults can still be seen flying into November. The butterfly overwinters as a larva.
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