The Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe)

Range of the Bog Copper.
Range of the Bog Copper.

Bog Copper male.
Bog Copper male. Photo by Mike Reese.

Bog Copper female.
Bog Copper female. Photo by Mike Reese.

Cranberry flowers.
Cranberry flowers in a northern Wisconsin bog. Photo by Melissa Simpson.

Sphagnum moss and cranberries.
Bog substrate showing Sphagnum moss and cranberries, ideal habitat for the Bog Copper.  Photo by Melissa Simpson.

Prepared by Melissa Simpson
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest,
Eastern Region, USDA Forest Service

The Bog Copper (Lycaena epixanthe) belongs to the family Lycaenidae, subfamily Lycaeninae, commonly referred to as the coppers. They are given this name because their coloration ranges from orange-red to brown, usually with a copper tinge and dark markings. The Bog Copper is the smallest of the United States coppers and is found throughout northeastern North America. This species is restricted to acid bogs with cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon and V. oxycoccos). The bog substrate, usually Sphagnum moss, must be saturated or nearly so most or all of the year and the area must be sunny. They are not found in commercial cranberry bogs due to the use of insecticides and mechanical disturbance.

The upper sides of male wings are brownish with purple iridescence, a white margin, black dots, and a reddish-orange zigzag line on the lower portion of the hind wing. Females' dorsal wing surface is a grayish brown with more of a purple sheen than males, black spots, and a white margin. The underside of both sexes are white or pale tan with dark spots and a reddish zigzag line on the lower portion of the hind wing. The wingspan measures 7/8 to 1 inch.

There is a single flight period June through early September (timing dependant on location), with peak flight time in June and July. Mating occurs shortly after emergence. Bog Coppers are univoltine and lay their eggs singly on the underside of the cranberry leaf close to the surface of the bog. The eggs overwinter and can survive the ice and periodic inundations. The larvae emerge in spring and eat the cranberry leaves and shoots. Adult bog coppers nectar on cranberry flowers.

Bog Coppers has a NatureServe global ranking of G4, "Apparently Secure," because this is a widespread species that is not greatly threatened on a global scale. There are, however, local threats within their range, including fire, peat mining, storm floods, beaver dams, and succession. These cranberry specialists require a specific bog habitat to survive and reproduce, so the availability of this habitat type is critical for this species' viability.

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