Lycaena dispar dispar


Kingdom Animalia

Male and female specimens of the extinct British Large Copper. 

The two shown here were collected at Holm Fen in 1840. 

Courtesy by Norman Day. © All rights reserved.

Phylum Tracheophyta
Class Insecta
Order Lepidoptera
Family Lycaenidae
Genus Lycaena
Species Lycaena dispar
Subspecies Lycaena dispar dispar
Authority (Haworth, 1802)
TEW Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2010
IUCN Status Not Evaluated
English Name British Large Copper
Dutch Name Britse Grote Vuurvlinder
Characteristics The Large Copper is a butterfly with shiny metallic wings. The male's upperside is primarily orange with dark brown edges. The female is darker above with larger dark edges and many dark spots. Both sexes have a pale underside with an orange marginal band on the hindwing and a pale blue marignal band on the forwing. (Cheshire, 2007)
Lifestyle Virtually nothing is known about the life history of the extinct British populations of the Large Copper except that which is inferred from the Dutch populations (Barnett & Warren 1995).
Range & Habitat This subspecies once occurred in England. There is good evidence that its range in the early nineteenth century included Lincolnshire, Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire across to the Norfolk Broads. Less reliable information suggests that there were also more westerly populations on the Somerset levels and the Wye marshes in Monmouthshire (Barnett & Warren 1995; Gimenez Dixon, 1996; Pullin et al 1995).

Image: map showing the possible previous range (in red) of the British Large Copper. Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.

History & Population This subspecies of the Large Copper was never common in England and was first recorded in 1749 from Dozenís Bank near Spalding, Lincolnshire (Heath, 1983). The British Large Copper was probably already in decline when it was first recorded, as it seems to have disappeared rapidly from Lincolnshire and was last recorded in Huntingdon at Holme Fen around 1847 or 1848 and in Cambridgeshire at Bottisham Fen in 1851. The last record may well be from the Norfolk Broads where specimens were taken at Ranworth in 1860 and Woodbastwick in 1864 (Irwin 1984). (Barnett & Warren 1995)
Extinction Causes The reason of this subspecies' extinction in Britain is the great reduction of fen habitat due to expansion of the human population (Wikipedia contributors 2007).
Conservation Attempts This is one of the butterfly species classified as a priority for protection and re-introduction in the UK under its national Biodiversity Action Plan (Wikipedia contributors 2007). The Large Copper is listed on Schedule 5 (for sale only) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It is also listed under Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats Directive as a species requiring strict protection in its own right (IV) and designation of Special Areas of Conservation (II). It is protected under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). The Large Copper has been proposed for full protection under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. (Barnett & Warren 1995)
Reintroduction There have been several reintroduction attempts of the other subspecies of the Large Copper to sites in Britain, but these have all ultimately failed (Wikipedia contributors 2007). 

The Large Copper subspecies Lycaena dispar rutilus was introduced to Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, in 1909 (Verrall, 1909) and following years with little success; to Greenfields, Co. Tipperary in 1913 and 1914 by E.B. Purefoy, where the colony survived until 1928; and to the Norfolk Broads in 1926 at Woodbastwick, where it survived until 1936 (Duffey, 1968). (Barnett & Warren 1995)

The closely related Dutch Large Copper Lycaena dispar batavus was introduced to Woodwalton Fen, Huntingdonshire in 1927. This colony has been maintained to the early 1990s, through a policy of protecting larvae and by supplementing the population by further adult releases from cage-raised stock. It was also introduced to Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, in 1930 where it survived until 1942; to the Norfolk Broads, near Surlingham, in 1949 where it survived for only one year; and to Greenfields, Co. Tipperary, in 1926 where it survived until 1938, and again in 1943 with survival until 1953 or 1954 (Oates & Warren, 1990). (Barnett & Warren 1995)

Research is now being conducted to see whether a further attempt is worthwhile in more extensive habitats available in the Norfolk Broads (Wikipedia contributors 2007).

Relatives The similar subspecies Lycaena dispar batavus (sometimes as L. d. batava) occurs only in the Netherlands. This very rare subspecies lives in marches in the northwest of the Province of Overijssel and in the southwest of the Province of Friesland (Frysl‚n). Another subspecies is Lycaena dispar rutilus (sometimes as L. d. rutila). (Gimenez Dixon, 1996)

Large Copper - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Species Action Plan - Large Copper (Pdf, 77 kB)



(Complete website)

Barnett, L.K. and M.S. Warren. 1995. Species Action Plan - Large Copper, Lycaena dispar. British Butterfly Conservation Society.

Cheshire, S. 2007. Large Copper British Race. British Butterflies - The most comprehensive free guide to British Butterflies online, [accessed 17 November 2007]

Duffey, E.. (1968) Ecological Studies On The Large Copper Butterfly Lycaena dispar (Haw.) batavus (Obth.) On Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire England, 1969-73. Biological Conservation 12 p143 - 58.

Gimenez Dixon, M. 1996. Lycaena dispar. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. <>. Downloaded on 13 March 2010.

Heath, J. (1983) Is This The Earliest Record Of Lycarna dispar (Haworth) (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)? Entomologistís Gazette 34 p228.

Oates, M.R. & Warren, M.S. (1990) A Review of Butterfly Introductions In Britain And Ireland, World Wide Fund For Nature, Goldalming.

Pullin, A.S, McLean, I.F.G. and Webb, M.R. (1995) Ecology And Conservation Of Lycarna dispar: British And European Perspectives. In Ecology And Conservation Of Butterflies p150-164. Ed A.S. Pullin. Chapman and Hall, London.

Verrall, G.H. (1909) The Large Copper Butterfly (Chrysophanus dispar). Entomologist 42 p183.

Wikipedia contributors, 'Large Copper', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 October 2007, 10:51 UTC, <> [accessed 11 November 2007]

Last updated: 3th March 2010.

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