Lycaena nivalis
Lilac-Bordered Copper

Family Description:
Alternate Common Names:Nivalis Copper, Snowy Copper.
Note: This species is referred to with the genus name Epidemia by some authors.

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is pale green and marked lengthwise with a red stripe along the back, edged on both sides with white. The back has many tiny white bumps, and the body is covered with brownish hair. The caterpillar has an average, full-grown length of 3/4 inch.
Adult: This is a fairly small to medium-sized butterfly, with a wingspan of 1 to 1 3/8 inches. The male is coppery orange on the upperside with a purplish sheen. The wings are spotted with brown, and the hindwing has a bright orange band along the outer edge. The female is brown to orange on the upperside and marked with dark brown spots. The forewing is edged with a wide brown band; the hindwing is edged with orange. Underneath, both sexes are yellowish to cream on the forewing and marked with dark spots. The underside of the hindwing is yellowish on the inner portion and lilac to mauve on the outer portion. It may be spotted with black and marked with a curved line of small orange dots or chevrons along the outer edge. It should be noted that the butterfly dulls in its appearance quickly after emergence as it loses its scales. Individuals that are over one week old may appear brown to gray and quite drab.

This species ranges from southern British Columbia south through the Pacific Northwest to central California and northern Nevada, and east to western Montana, and parts of Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. It occurs through much of Idaho.

It can be found in open areas such as sagebrush steppe, meadows, forest openings, and rocky outcrops.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of Douglas’ knotweed (Polygonum douglasii).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar.

Eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring, and the resulting brood of caterpillars is the only generation for the given year. Each caterpillar undergoes four stages of growth, called instars. Adults generally fly from June through September or October. These butterflies are swift fliers.

Males perch to wait for receptive females. Females lay eggs singly at or near the base of host plants.

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.

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.