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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Purplish


Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides), Bodega Dunes, 15 March 2016

Remarkably, this is the first time I've observed Purplish Coppers in the Bodega Dunes, even after 12 years of looking (at least casually, and sometimes seriously) for butterflies.

I counted several individuals today.  A male is shown above.  The next pictures are two different views of a female — first from above, and then from below.



  

Have I missed this species in previous years?  It's a pretty distinctive butterfly, so that's a little hard to believe.

Or — What's different about this year?  Or last year (e.g., one possibility is that adults laid eggs last year, and then a new generation emerged locally this year)?

Have you seen or do you know of other sightings of Purplish Copper on Bodega Head or in the Bodega Dunes?  Are they irregular here?  Or have I really just been missing them all of these years?

If you're looking locally — Acmon Blues (Plebejus acmon) are the most common lycaenid (blue or copper) on Bodega Head.  With a quick view, they might look somewhat similar to Purplish Coppers.  But they're smaller, bluer above, grayer below, with more numerous and heavier spots below, and note the more substantial orange marginal "lunules" on the underwing, which can look like a band of orange near the edges of the wings:


[If you were wondering, all of these butterflies were nectaring on Coastal Goldfields (Lasthenia minor).]

Art Shapiro (see web page here) says that Purplish Coppers used to be more common along the coast, and that they used to emerge early in the season (e.g., in March, similar to the ones I saw today).  Now it's rare to see them before June.  Were today's sightings a hint of how things used to be?

P.S.  It appears that the early date for Purplish Copper in California is 4 March.

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