Small copper

One of the delights of September is a pristine, newly hatched, late brood small copper butterfly. This one was was photographed last week in the reserve by Clive Knight.

The park is ideal for small coppers. They favour open land like ours with its drifts of their preferred nectar sources: thistles, ragwort and fleabane.

At this time of year small coppers (Lycaena phlaeas) commonly feed on [1] ragwort and [2] fleabane. The specimen photographed by Clive Knight [3] was feeding on the last of the bramble flowers.

Each summer, there are two or three generations of small coppers. In a good year there might even be a fourth with the adults flying right through until October.

If this late generation butterfly is a female, she will lay her eggs singly on the underside of the leaves of the larva’s foodplant: common sorrel or broadleaved dock, both of which are plentiful in the reserve. It is these larvae, when they hatch, that will overwinter, beginning their hibernation before they moult for the third time.

They will pupate in the spring and next year’s first generation of small copper butterflies will emerge.

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