Sooty Copper
Lycaena tityrus

HOME


Male, Switzerland, July 2013

Lycaena tityrus

Male, Italy, March 2012



Male of high alpine form, subalpinus, Switzerland, July 2013

Lycaena tityrus

Male of high alpine form, subalpinus, Switzerland, June 2012

Lycaena tityrus

Male, Switzerland, May 2015



Male, Italy, June 2013

Lycaena tityrus

Female, Switzerland, May 2011

Lycaena tityrus

Female, Italy, April 2014

Lycaena tityrus

Male, Italy, April 2014 (same site, on same day, as above)



Female, Italy, June 2013

Lycaena tityrus

Female, Switzerland, April 2018

Lycaena tityrus

Female, Switzerland, April 2018

Lycaena tityrus

Female, Switzerland, June 2013

Lycaena tityrus

Mating pair, female on left, Val d'Aran, Spain, July 2005

Lycaena tityrus

Mating pair, female above, Val d'Aran, Spain, July 2005

Male, June 2005, Switzerland

Male, May 2005, Switzerland

Male, June 2005, Switzerland

Male, Switzerland

Lycaena tityrus egg

Egg, Switzerland, April 2011

Lycaena tityrus distribution

Distribution

The sooty copper is a common and familiar butterfly in much of Europe, flying in a succession of broods - two or more, except at the highest altitudes, where there is only one - from spring until autumn. In alpine meadows it is more likely to be encountered than the otherwise ubiquitous small copper, while in lower, hotter sites the two species readily cohabit.

Although both sexes are very variable, this is an easy butterfly to identify. The male upperside is more or less completely suffused with sooty brown (although it may have a glossy, almost bluish patina, it never shows the violet reflections of the violet copper), bordered submarginally in most populations with varying amounts of orange. High alpine populations of the subspecies  subalpinus typically show no orange at all. Females have a complete row of submarginal orange lunules on the hindwing and are broadly orange on the forewing with the usual dark spots and varying amounts of fuscous suffusion. The line of forewing postdiscal spots is irregular and descends stepwise in pairs, unlike that of the superficially similar purple-edged copper, which has a neat, continuous line of spots (the two species were once classified in different genera - Heodes tityrus and Palaeochrysophanus hippothoe). The underside typically has a rather silvery tone, especially in the high alpine subspecies, which also has diminished submarginal orange on this surface. Subspecies bleusi, largely similar to the typical lowland subspecies, flies in central Spain.

Eggs are laid on species of Rumex. Those laid in the autumn hatch but the larvae hibernate at the base of the plant while still young, to complete their development in the spring. The first butterflies usually fly in April in lowland sites - May at about 1000, near me in the Alps and June in the highest sites.