All these pictures show
from Switzerland, Spain
and Italy. Further north and east, this is replaced by subspecies alciphron, which
shows much more
purple reflection on the upperwings. A third subspecies, melibaeus, flies in
is widespread but local, being commonest at low to moderate altitudes
in mountainous areas. In Switzerland it is commonly encountered in
grassy meadows in hot parts of the Rhône Valley and adjacent valleys. I
also find it commonly along flowery paths with thyme and grass in the
Pyrenees. Males defend territories from grass stems and flower heads,
returning again and again to the same spot if disturbed or after
launching out after other insects. Females, as so often, are more to be
found wandering looking for places to lay eggs.
Once you are familiar with it, this is a very easy butterfly to
identify. Even though ssp. gordius
lacks any substantial purple, there is a kind of violet aura about the
male, which coupled with the bright copper upperside and black spots
makes it unmistakable. The female is distinctive too, with her open,
orange wings and black spots. Female purple-edged coppers have dark
hindwings basally (and a continuous, rather than step-like, row of
postdiscal spots on the forewing).
The nominate subspecies, which I have not yet seen, is described as
sporadic and local.
Purple-shot coppers are single-brooded, flying in June and July (though
in good years I have seen them as early as May in Switzerland). They
hibernate as small larvae at the base of the foodplant (Rumex spp.) and
development on the new growth in the spring.