Lycaena phlaeas | Small Copper | Capróg bheag

Pre 2017

2017 - 2021


Conservation status

Ireland: Least Concern (Regan et al., 2010)
Europe: Least Concern (van Swaay et al., 2010)
Climate risk category: Potential Climate Change Risk; present distribution in Europe can be explained by climate to only a limited extent (Settele et al., 2008).

Legal status

The Small copper is not afforded legal protection in Ireland. 

Native status


Species Biology


Key identification features include:

  • Small size, wingspan: 26 - 36 mm
  • Dark dots on vivid copper coloured upper forewing
  • Prominent broad copper band at margin of hindwing


Widespread: unimproved dry non-calcareous grassland, coastal grey dunes, fallow crops, cutover bog. Adults fly over open ground, especially where there are bare patches interspersed with low herbs. It flies only in sunny conditions, with a rapid, jerky flight. The male is more active than the female, which flies low over the vegetation searching for foodplants. Adults also bask on flowers; especially those of Compositae, from which males will fly up rapidly to confront passing butterflies (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Flight period

Bivoltine: 1st generation flies from April to June, 2nd generation from July to September, and an occasional 3rd generation in October in good years.

Life cycle

An egg is laid on the underside of a leaf of the foodplant, usually singly. Where population density is high, more than one egg may be found on one leaf. After hatching, the larva forms a groove on the underside of a leaf of the foodplant and feeds in this. Although the upper epidermis is untouched, the feeding patch can be seen from above as a clear transparent gallery. After the final generation, the larva overwinters on a pad of silk spun on a stem or leaf of the foodplant, feeding during mild spells (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Food plants

Specialist, the larva feeds on Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and Sheep Sorrel (R. acetosella); possibly also on certain other Sorrels (Rumex spp.), on which it has been observed to feed in captivity (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Flowers visited

Generalist, adult nectar sources include: Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), Daisy (Bellis perennis), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Hawkweeds (Hieracium/Hypochoeris), Heather (Calluna vulgaris / Erica spp.), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).


World distribution(GBIF)

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

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.



Bond, K.G.M. and Gittings, T. 2008. Database of Irish Lepidoptera. 1 - Macrohabitats, microsites and traits of Noctuidae and butterflies. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 35. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

Regan, E.C., Nelson, B., Aldwell, B., Bertrand, C., Bond, K., Harding, J., Nash, D., Nixon, D. and Wilson, C.J. 2010. Ireland Red List No. 4 – Butterflies. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Ireland.

Settele, J., Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Kühn, I., Van Swaay, C., Verovnik, R., Warren, M.S., Wiemers, M., Hanspach, J., Hickler, T. and Kühn, E. 2008. Climatic risk atlas of European butterflies. Sofia-Moscow: Pensoft.

Van Swaay, C., Cuttelod, A., Collins, S., Maes, D., López Munguira, M., Šašic, M., Settele, J., Verovnik, R., Verstrael, T., Warren, M., Wiemers, M. and Wynhof, I. 2010. European Red List of Butterflies. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.