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large copper

Pictured: large copper, Lycaena dispar

Notes from Jenyns: Taken in Bardolph Fen, by J.C. Dale, Esq.~ According to Haworth & Stephens, not uncommon in Cambridshire in certain seasons. ~

200-year trend in Cambridgeshire: Decline to extinction.

Modern records

This species used to be found throughout the wet fenlands of south east England. However, it is estimated that in the UK 99% of this habitat was drained to make space for agriculture and as a result, the large copper went extinct around 150 years ago. One of the last locations the British subspecies was found was Whittlesea Mere in Cambridgeshire, which was drained in 1851. 

Official reintroductions have been attempted from different subspecies on the continent but have so far failed. Large scale restoration projects in Cambridgeshire, such as the BCN Wildlife Trust’s Great Fen and National Trust’s Wicken Vision project, are working to bring wetland habitat back. However, these sites need to increase in size and support more of the large copper’s foodplant, great water dock, to give this wetland specialist butterfly a chance of surviving here again in the future. That being said, occasional sightings of this species do still pop up in the UK, most likely from unofficial releases without the backing of an authorised reintroduction programme. 

National records map

Large copper national records map:


Scarce copper

Scarce copper, Lycaena virgaureae

Notes from Jenyns: “Said to inhabit the marshes in the Isle of Ely, & to be found on the flowers of the Golden Rod at the end of August.” ~ But no specimens have occurred for many years. See Steph. l. c.

200-year trend in Cambridgeshire: Little change.

Modern records

 Historically, there has been quite a lot of confusion separating this species and from the large copper, Lycaena dispar. As such the existence of the scarce copper, Lycaena virgaureae, in Britain, let alone Cambridgeshire, is in doubt. This fits with Jenyns’ notes where he records that the species is ‘said to inhabit’ marshes in Ely, indicating that this statement may not have been verified. 

National records map

Scarce copper national records map: Not available.