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Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

On this page, we have made available all the information we have for this species

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Picture of Small Copper
© Nick Greatorex-Davies

The Small Copper is a widespread and sometimes locally common species of open habitats with short vegetation, often colonising for a time areas where there has been recent disturbance and where there are plenty of patches of bare ground. The caterpillars feed on sorrels and sometimes docks (Rumex spp.). (For further details on this species see

Family : Lycaenidae

Status : Rapid decline

Status details :
Status since 1976 is Rapid decline with a decrease of -45.8%
Status over the last 20 years is Stable with a decrease of -13.5%
Status over the last 10 years is Stable with a decrease of -44.2%

Log collated index plot

Species Log Collated Index Plot

This chart shows the index of abundance (LCI = Log Collated Index) over time. It shows fluctuations in populations from year to year, and is scaled so that the average index over the whole series is equal to 2 (horizontal line). For greater detail about how this index is derived, click on the green question mark above.

Trend description :
The data show no significant trend. Numbers may fluctuate considerably at individual sites where regular disturbance is needed to provide the early successional habitat with foodplant required for this species to breed. Cavenham Heath in Suffolk is one of the best UKBMS sites to see this species in large numbers, where it regularly produces three figure annual indices.

This map shows the distribution between 1995 and 2016. Data is derived from the Butterflies for the New Millenium dataset via the NBN Gateway

Phenology plot
Species Phenology Plot

Phenology plot

This chart shows the average number of butterflies seen on transects between Arpil and October across all sites (fitted values from a Generalised Additive Model). The blue line gives average counts over the full BMS series (1976 to date) and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Species abundance map


This map shows symbols for the mean abundance at transect sites, with the colour of the symbol reflecting the level of abundance. Means are over all years. Grey background squares are the occupied cells as shown by the Butterflies for the New Millenium over the previous ten year period.


In total, Small Copper has been recorded from 810 transects in the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Of these, annual indices of abundance have been calculated from 947 sites, with an average index of 13 individuals per site.

For 436 of these sites, Small Copper has been recorded well enough to calculate annual indices of abundance in more years, allowing trends to be calculated.

In 2018, 9551 individuals were recorded from 486 sites, producing annual indices at 386 of these.

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is organized and funded by Butterfly Conservation (BC), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The UKBMS is indebted to all volunteers who contribute data to the scheme.