Introducing the Common Copper

 

The Common Copper.

The Common Copper.

New Zealand’s butterflies and moths occupy a wide range of habitats, from rocky coasts to rugged mountains and if you wander the shores of Te Waihora in summer, you’ll spot a number of different species.

One of the most often seen, is the Common Copper (Lycaena salustius)  – Pepe pora riki in Māori – from the Lycaenidae family. It is found only in New Zealand and is common throughout the country in mid-summer. With their bright orange/yellow and black wings, they are hard to miss.

The number and variety of copper butterflies in New Zealand is unrivalled worldwide. They have diversified into at least 40 species within four groups and no single species occurs nationwide – and many have very small distributions. In addition, their markings are very variable.

As with most New Zealand butterflies, copper larvae are particular feeders. They eat only Muehlenbeckia, including the tiny-leaved, ground-hugging M.axillaris and the extensive vines of M. australis or pohuehue, which has a multi-branched, interlacing growth pattern.

Certain species of copper butterflies are among the world’s smallest, with a wingspan of less than one centimetre. The largest New Zealand coppers have a wingspan of up to three centimetres.

* Photograph courtesy Christchurch photographer, Steve Attwood.