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Reddish Vale Country Park

Small Copper Butterfly

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The small copper is named after it's bright copper coloured forewings, which are dotted with black spots and have black borders.

This is a fast flying butterfly and by daytime is almost constantly on the move. Even when feeding, it rests with it's wings half opened ready for a fast take off. Should another insect enter its air space, the small copper will swiftly drive it away.

 

It is widespread and common across Europe, Asia, and North America, and also found in North Africa south through to Ethiopia.

It 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.

 

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 mercilessly and mating usually occurs low down in vegetation.

 

The eggs are laid singly and conspicuously on the upperside of foodplant leaves and the young caterpillar feeds on the underside of the leaf creating "windows" by leaving the upper epidermis of the leaf untouched. Pupation takes place in the leaf litter and the pupa is thought to be tended by ants. There are between two and three broods a year, fewer further north. In exceptionally good years, a fourth brood sometimes occurs in the south and adults can still be seen flying into November. The species overwinters as a caterpillar.

 

This is the last remaining copper butterfly species in Britain since the large copper became extinct in the mid 1800's due to fenland drainage, the last large copper was recorded at Bottisham in Cambridgeshire in 1851.

Can be seen flying May-August.

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Reddish Vale Country Park

Small Copper Butterfly