Ryton gardens, sunshine and a glint of pure copper, a mini beast photographer (that’s photographer who takes pictures of mini beasts) can’t ask for anything more.
Unlike the plethora of white butterflies that were out that afternoon, the small copper is an unmistakeable butterfly. Although it is paler on the underside (looking a bit like a common blue – they are the same family after all) the bright copper that it shows when it sits with its wings open resembles no other butterfly – the gatekeeper looks drab by comparison.
Small coppers are likely to be around until mid-October (unless we get very cold weather) and have up to three broods in a year. The first broods are typically on the wing in early May, a larger brood is around for about a month from mid July and then a final brood occurs from the middle of September into October. Eggs are usually laid on sorrel or dock leaves (guess what I will be planting next year in case any small coppers are reading this) and apparently are white and disc like and look a bit like the surface of a golf ball – I’ll let you know if I see one. The green caterpillars that emerge are about for around a month before pupating into the beautiful adults. The exception being those from the last brood as this is a butterfly that overwinters as a caterpillar.
However, small coppers are apparently very prone to variation in spot size and number and the copper varies in shade with white and brown versions sometimes seen. And there I was thinking this was a truly unmistakeable butterfly!
Although the butterfly is quick and a bit flighty, males are quite territorial and if you wait for a while they are likely to come back to the same spot. As shown in this photo, yellow flowers appear to be a bit of a favourite with these butterflies.