Small Copper: This handsome, brightly copper-coloured, small butterfly lives up to its name. It is about the same size as a common blue. It is widely distributed and found in a great variety of habitats across the wider countryside, where its chief food plant – common sorrel grows. Woodland rides, hedgerows, arable set aside, parks, gardens, and churchyards where it is relatively dry and open, and which contain suitable nectar sources.
They are, usually, only a few adults on the wing at the same time in their favoured sites. They over-winter as caterpillars which go into hibernation by the middle of October. In the following March, these caterpillars complete their development and pupate in April, after which the first generation emerges in the latter part of May or early June. The males are territorial chasing away other males and checking out any passing females. Eggs laid by this first generation, go through to pupate in late June and July such that the second generation emerges at the end of July and into August. These are the butterflies on the wing now.
A third generation is then produced which emerges in the latter half of September. It is this third generation, which can appear in large numbers in favourable years, as in Westbury in 2018 after the long hot summer.
Photos Mick Fletcher John Ball Peter Bright