Tuesday, 26 July 2016

JUNE 24 - The Violet Copper (Lycaena helle) is one of the scarcest and most threatened of European butterflies. It is restricted to wet herb-rich meadows and pastures, itself a habitat under threat of drainage, where the larval food-plant, bistort (Polygonum bistorta) grows. This butterfly occurs at sparsely scattered localities across Europe and Scandinavia with a few further east as well - but it is always rare.

Following a tip-off, we were very fortunate and pleased to find it at an upland locality in the French Jura. Today was rather late in the season for this species but soon after arriving at the site we quickly found a worn male and then shortly afterwards a much fresher one. Flying low and fast as they do, they are very difficult to follow because of the colour of the upper side of the wings. They are the smallest of the ten European ‘coppers’ with a wing-span of a mere 25mm. We returned to the site in good weather conditions on two further days shortly afterwards but failed to see any more. At the same site, Marsh Fritillaries were flying in profusion along with several Woodland Ringlets and, perhaps surprisingly, some Small Heaths. As we were leaving the site after the second blank visit, a fresh male Purple-edged Copper (Lycaena hippothoe) was spotted and photographed. These are stunning, brilliantly coloured, and readily visible at quite a distance. This is an idyllic spot for butterflies which hopefully will remain intact for a long time to come. Pleasing to add this to my list as my fifth of the European coppers seen, still five to go though........ (June 24 (+ 26 & 27), 2016).

Bistort larval food plant

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