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Gray Copper (Lycaena dione)



Gray Copper (Lycaena dione) a Special Concern butterfly. This species is found in wet areas in open grasslands, including stream edges, roadside ditches where their host plant, docks (Rumex spp.) grow. Adults fly from late June to mid-August with peak flight in July. Larvae feed in spring and have been noted in late April in southeastern Wisconsin.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Gray Copper (Lycaena dione). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Lycaena dione in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Identification: Largest North American copper at 31-36mm wingspan. The upperside is grey. Male has some orange along margin of hindwing and the female has an extensive orange band. Below is grayish white with black spots and a prominent orange band (variable).

Similar Species: No other Wisconsin species have the combination of size and grey coloration.

Habitat: Wet areas in open grasslands, including stream edges, roadside ditches where docks grow.

Nectar Source: Dogbane (Apocynum spp.), milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), thistle (Cirsium spp.).

Host Plant: Docks (Rumex spp.) including Rumex crispus and R. occidentalis.

State Distribution: Grant, Sauk, Milwaukee, and Bayfield Cos.

Global Distribution: Southern Alberta to southern Manitoba, northern Idaho to Wisconsin and south to IL, MO, and TX.

Status Comments: Highly localized and uncommon. Similarity to the Great Copper, Lycaena xanthoides, that occurs only on the Pacific coast has caused confusion in the past. The Grey Copper is a distinct species from the Great Copper.

Phenology: Late June to mid August for adults. July 11-15 Bayfield Co.

Life and Natural History: Females lay single eggs at or near the base of dock plants in June and July. Larvae feed in Spring and have been noted in late April in southeastern Wisconsin.



Gray Copper

Gray Copper - Tamarack State Wildlife Area, Trempealeau County.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Gray Copper

Photo © Lesa Kardash.

Last revised: Wednesday, November 07, 2018