American Coppers

By Julie Jansen

American copper
American copper
by Julie Jansen
by Julie Jansen

Adult American Coppers are one of the smallest members of the Copper family, with the average wing span of only 1.25". They have orange forewings with black spots and a dark outer wing margin and grayish upper hind wings with an orange border with a row of black spots.

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 elicit a response.

Females are pursued and mating usually occurs in vegetation. The eggs are laid singly and conspicuously on the upper side of food plant 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.

American Copper can be found in most disturbed areas including fields, sandy prairies, power lines, and rocky places. The caterpillar eats sheep sorrel and curly dock, the adult drinks the nectar of common buttercup, goldenrod, white clover, butterfly weed and yarrow.

The flashy orange sections of the American Copper wings bring a delightful splash of life and joy to your garden. This little beauty will not be outshone by larger butterflies. The American Copper magically floats on gentle and majestic wing beats. Catching a glimpse of this butterfly in your garden will bring a smile to your face and remind you why these creatures are lovely and captivating.

Sources: greennature.com, gardenswithwings.com, butterflyidentification.com