Lycaena helloides
Purplish Copper

Family Description:
Note: This species is referred to by the genus name Epidemia by some authors. The distinction between this species and the Dorcas Copper, Lycaena dorcas, is not clear in some locations, such as in the Rocky Mountains, where the two have been known to hybridize.

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is bright yellow when young, maturing to a bright green marked with yellow, in lengthwise stripes along the back and sides, and in diagonal dashes on the sides as well. It is covered with bumps, each bump bearing spines and hairs. It can reach a maximum length of inch.
Adult: This is a small to medium-sized butterfly, with a wingspan of 1 to 1 inches. The male is orangish brown on the upperside, with a purplish sheen. It is marked with black spots, a fairly wide dark band on the outside edges of the wings, and an orange zigzag on the rear of the hindwing. The female is brownish orange on the upperside and marked similarly; it may also have orange spots dotted with black on the hindwing. Underneath, both sexes are yellowish on the forewing and tan to gray on the hindwing. The wings are spotted with black, more heavily on the forewing. The rear of the hindwing is marked with a zigzag of orange.

This species ranges from Alaska south and east through Canada to the Great Lakes, and from the west coast of the U.S. east through northern Arizona and New Mexico north to South Dakota. It occurs throughout Idaho.

It utilizes a wide variety of habitats, such as disturbed areas, fields, meadows, and marshes.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of members of the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae), including knotweed (Polygonum spp.) and docks (Rumex spp.), and on cinquefoils (Potentilla spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar.

Ecology:Eggs overwinter in some locations, and hatch in the spring. The number of generations of caterpillars each summer depends on the location, from only one at higher elevations and the far north to four at low elevations in California. Each caterpillar undergoes four stages of growth, called instars. Caterpillars pupate in the organic debris at the base of their host plants. Pupae or young caterpillars overwinter in a physiological state called diapause in some locations. Adults generally fly from March to November (June through August at high elevations).

Males perch to wait for receptive females, or may actively patrol in search of them. Females lay pale green eggs singly at or near the bases of host plants. The eggs fade in color to white after several days. Females in the laboratory lay their eggs on host plant flowers and fruits.

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

Ballmer, G. R. and G. F. Pratt. 1988. A survey of the last instar larvae of the Lycaenidae of California. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 27:1-81.

Coolidge, K. R. 1924. Life history of Heodes helloides. Entomological News 35:306-312.

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.