Lycaena dorcas
Dorcas Copper

Family Description:
Alternate Common Name:
Cinquefoil Copper.
Note: Some authors refer to this species with the genus name Epidemia. The distinction between this species and the Purplish Copper, Lycaena helloides, is not clear in some locations, such as in the Rocky Mountains, where the two have been known to hybridize.

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is pale green with a brownish head and short hair. It is marked with a dark green line along the back and numerous faint, white, vertical lines on the sides the body.
Adult: This is a fairly small butterfly, with a wingspan of 1 to 1 inches. The male is coppery brown on the upperside with a bluish purple sheen; the female is brown but may be clouded with yellow or beige, often on the outer portion of the wing. Both sexes are marked with black spots and crescents. Underneath is orangish brown and similarly but more faintly marked. There may be an orange to red border along the outer edge of the underside of the wings.

This species ranges from Alaska east across Canada, south to Washington and through the Rocky Mountains to northern New Mexico; in the Great Lakes states south to Ohio; and in Maine. It occurs in patches throughout Idaho.

It occurs in meadows, bogs, marshes, and forest openings.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of cinquefoils (Potentilla spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar, often from plants belonging to the sunflower family (Asteraceae).

There is one generation of caterpillars each summer. Eggs overwinter in leaf litter, and the young caterpillars emerging in the spring must locate the host plant to begin feeding. Adults generally fly from mid-June through September.

Males perch to wait for receptive females or may actively patrol for them. Females lay white eggs singly on the undersides of leaves of host plants. As the leaves of the host plant are shed in autumn, so, too, do the eggs fall to the ground; the eggs overwinter in the leaf litter.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank: G5; population levels are secure, but may be of concern in the future.

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.