Small copper

Small Copper butterfly

Small Copper ©Bob Coyle

Small Copper butterfly

Small Copper ©Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

Small copper

Scientific name: Lycaena phlaeas
The small copper lives up to its name in both colour and size! Look out for it from April onwards in dry, sunny habitats like heathland, downland and woodland. It can be spotted in gardens, too.

Species information


Wingspan: 2.6-3.6cm

Conservation status


When to see

April to October


The small copper is a small butterfly that is on the wing throughout the summer between April and October. Males are territorial and can be seen basking on bare ground or rock waiting for females, every now and again chasing off other insects that encroach on their space. Adults can be seen feeding on ragwort and thistles, while the caterpillars feed on common sorrel and sheep's sorrel. Found in dry, sunny habitats, including heathland, woodland edges, waste ground and downland.

How to identify

The small copper has bright orange forewings with dark brown spots and a thick, dark brown margin. It has dark brown hindwings that are banded with orange.



Did you know?

The related large copper became extinct in the UK over 150 years ago due to the draining of English fenland. Globally, this species is categorised as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Attempts have been made to re-establish the UK population, but have had little success so far.

How people can help

To attract butterflies, such as the small copper, into your garden, plant nectar-rich borders for them to feed along and climbing ivy and shrubs for overwintering insects.