Lycaena dione
Gray Copper

Family Description:
This species is listed with the genus name Gaeides by some authors. Some authors consider this species to be a subspecies of Lycaena xanthoides, the Great Copper.

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is greenish to yellowish green and is marked with a darker green or reddish band,  possibly edged in yellow, running lengthwise along the back. It reaches an average, full-grown length of approximately 1 inch.
Adult: This is a medium-sized butterfly, large for a Copper, with a wingspan of 1 1/4 to 1 1/2  inches. There ia a very short "tail" or extension of fringe on the rear of each hindwing. The male is grayish brown on the upperside with few additional markings, except for a small dark bar on the forewing, several pale spots on the fore-and hindwings, and several hazy spots, clouded by orange, along the edge of the hindwing. The female is grayish to dark brown on the upperside, possibly clouded with orange, spotted with black, and with a wavy orange band along the edge of the hindwing. Underneath, both sexes are gray to whitish gray, dotted with black, and marked along the hindwing with orange.

This species ranges in Canada from southern Alberta east to southern Manitoba, and in the U.S. from northern Idaho east to Minnesota, extending south to northern Texas and central Missouri and Illinois. In Idaho, it has been documented only in Bonner County.

It occurs in open, grassy areas, such as fields, prairies, meadows, and marshes.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of a variety of docks (Rumex spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar, often from milkweed (Asclepias spp.) and thistle (Cirsium spp.).

Eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring, and the resulting brood is the only generation of caterpillars each year. Each caterpillar undergoes four stages of growth, called instars. Adults generally fly from mid-May through July or August. Butterflies exhibit a fast and erratic flight pattern, can be aggressive towards other butterflies, and are most active in the afternoon. They tend to stay in the same general location during their lifespan.

Males perch to wait for receptive females. Females lay pale green eggs singly at or near the bases of host plants. The eggs turn white before hatching.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank: G5; populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.   Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.