Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¼ - 2 inches (3.2 - 5.08 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Male: iridescent coppery brown; purple iridescence; dark spots. Female: yellow orange forewing patches with smudgy black spots and border. Both sexes have light orange band on lower hindwing. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Forewing orange with numerous black spots. Hindwing grayish white with numerous black spots and broad orange outer edge.

Egg: White or greenish white. Turban-shaped. Placed on undersides of leaves, along stems, and sometimes on seedheads. Possibly the overwintering stage.

Caterpillar: Velvety yellow green; dark green stripe on back; covered with tiny light hairs. 

Chrysalis: Green or light tan; dark edge on wing casing; dark speckles on abdomen. Sometimes suffused with red. May be attached to host plants.

The Bronze Copper is a "fugitive" species: it disappears quickly as plant succession progresses past its earliest stages.  Its habitats are almost completely dependent on some form of disturbance for creation and maintenance.  Although many butterfly species are dependent on transient habitats, Bronze Coppers require early succession wetland sites, a particularly difficult niche to find.

Bronze Coppers actively nectar on small flowers that are usually not far from their host plants. Males perch on short vegetation to watch for unmated females. Eggs are placed on the undersides of host plant leaves, along stems, and sometimes on seedheads. Caterpillars have a distinctive eating-pattern, chewing narrow grooves into host plant leaves.  On tougher leaves, they only scrape the surface, creating a windowpane effect. Chrysalides are often formed on the host plant.

Alabama's only known Bronze Copper colonies is dependent on the fortunes of some low-lying cotton fields.  When the fields lie barren, dock plants pop up, and so do Bronze Coppers.  In years that cotton is cultivated, the dock is replaced, and the coppers seem to vanish.  The scenario is frustrating, but without the cycle of disturbance and renewal, plant succession would progress to stages unfavorable to this wide-ranging but very exacting butterfly species.

 

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
No Sightings recorded at this time.

Habitat

Early succession, low wet areas. In Alabama, in or near fallow fields. In north Alabama, sites that contain stands of Curly Dock (Rumex crispus) or other docks should be carefully searched for Bronze Coppers.

Bronze Copper
Bronze Copper (Tharsalea hyllus)
County
© Sara Bright
Curly Dock

Host and Nectar Plants

Reports from nearby states list various plants in the Buckwheat family (Polygonaceae), especially docks (Rumex spp.).

In Alabama, Curly Dock (Rumex crispus) is strongly suspected.

Bronze Copper
Bronze Copper (Tharsalea hyllus)
County
© Sara Bright
Curly Dock with chrysalis
Bronze Copper
Bronze Copper (Tharsalea hyllus)
County
© Sara Bright
Curly Dock