Butterflies of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance

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Once on a species account page, clicking on the "View PDF" link will show the flight data for that species, for each of the three regions of the state.
Other information, such as high counts and earliest/latest dates, can also been seen on the PDF page.

Related Species in LYCAENIDAE:
<<       >>
Common NameAmerican Copper by Ted Wilcox => 07/01/05 ? Ashe County, NC
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Click to enlarge
[Google Images]     BoA [Images ]
Scientific NameLycaena phlaeas
Link to BAMONA species account.
MapClick on a county for list of all database records for the species in that county.
DistributionDISTRIBUTION: Essentially throughout of the mountains, but quite scattered in the Piedmont and in the Sandhills portion of the upper Coastal Plain. Apparently absent in most places in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, though it has been recorded along the SC coast.
AbundanceABUNDANCE: Decreasing in numbers in the past few years. Formerly, fairly common to locally common in the northern mountains, but mostly uncommon to fairly common now; rare to uncommon in the central mountains, and generally rare in the southern mountains. Formerly rare and local in the Sandhills, but very few recent records, and seemingly very rare there now. Extremely rare (only 22 records) in the Piedmont. NC lies near the southeastern edge of the range.
FlightFLIGHT PERIOD: At least three broods in NC. The Coastal Plain and Piedmont records range from mid-March to late October; the flight periods are not overly obvious from the flight charts, though a minimum of three broods seems apparent downstate (and perhaps four broods in the Sandhills). In the mountains, broods are from mid-April into late June, late June to mid-August, and mid-August to mid-October.
HabitatHABITAT: Disturbed habitats, such as vacant lots, mountain meadows, fields, powerline clearings, etc. Usually not seen near woody vegetation (shrubby fields, woodland borders). Most frequently seen in rolling mountain meadows, or non-natural grassy balds, especially ones with much Red Clover (Trifolium pratense).
See also Habitat Account for General Successional Fields and Forblands
PlantsFOOD AND NECTAR PLANTS: The foodplants are introduced species of sorrel/dock (Rumex), which abound in NC in weedy, abandoned fields and pastures. The adults nectar on many low-growing flowers such as buttercups, clovers, and composites.
CommentsCOMMENTS: This species can be easily overlooked, despite its brilliant scarlet color above. The butterflies are small and inconspicuous when the wings are folded. Waste lots with dock (Rumex spp.) are places most butterfliers avoid. Thus, coppers are probably overlooked more than really rare.

Some authorities suggest that the eastern United States population is introduced from Europe; however, there are native populations in the western part of the country. This idea is based on the fact that the primary foodplant is a European introduction and that favored habitats are man-made, such as waste lots and weedy fields. Also, Eastern coppers are closer in appearance to European coppers than they are to populations in the northern and western parts of North America. This suggestion that Eastern populations are not native has bothered many butterfliers, who claim that there is no obvious point of introduction from whence the butterflies have spread (the butterflies were apparently common and widespread when the first lepidopterists started collections and observations); and that there are other butterflies that are clearly native that now use mostly alien plants as foodplants (e.g., Common Sootywing, Hayhurst's Scallopwing, Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur). However, the fact that the species has been recorded only from very widely scattered counties away from the mountains is not consistent with populations of a native species, which should show a more continuous distribution without large gaps in the range.

The species is starting to show declines in the state. Perhaps this is not surprising, as so many "meadow/field" species are declining due to habitat loss, possible herbiciding, untimely mowing, and other factors. Records away from the mountains, as of 2010, have been very few indeed. Thankfully, Rob Van Epps found a first record for heavily worked Mecklenburg County, on April 21, 2019, with an indisputable photo for documentation; and Richard Stickney added a new record (photo) for Yadkin County in the northwestern Piedmont in 2021. Were these two recent Piedmont individuals just strays from the mountains? Probably not, and there are likely a few tiny outpost breeding sites in this region.
State RankS3S4
State Status
Global RankG5
Federal Status
Other NameLittle Copper

Links to other butterfly galleries: [Cook] [Lynch] [Pippen] [Pugh]
Photo by: Rob Van Epps
Comment: 2019-04-21. Fisher Farm Park, Mecklenburg County
American Copper - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Doug Allen
Comment: SC
American Copper - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Sven Halling
Comment: May 29, 2013, Blue Ridge Parkway, Wilkes County
American Copper - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Sven Halling
Comment: May 26, 2013, Blue Ridge Parkway, Watauga County
American Copper - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Irvin Pitts
Comment: Blue Ridge Parkway near Beacon Heights, Avery County
American Copper - Click to enlarge