Lycaena a. arota

Tailed Copper

Lycaena arota arota - the Tailed Copper - is a beautiful summer butterfly that can be active into the heat of August some years. Males emerge first, usually in June, and stake out territory as they await females. They perch on trees or shrubs and can easily be found as they fly off to investigate possible females, then return to favored spots, often along a trail. In my (limited) experience, females are best sought for on the host currant shrubs several weeks after the males have begun flying. As I write this, it is nearly August (2019) and yesterday I found fresh females and worn males at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, and found my first female in the Santa Anita Canyon colony a full five weeks after first seeing males there.

Nominate arota can be found in scattered colonies from San Diego County all the way up to the Sierras. The scarce subspecies nubila occupies a relatively small (and shrinking) range in the Santa Monica Mountains and perhaps east to Mt. Wilson in the San Gabriels. Tailed Coppers from canyons to the east of Mt. Wilson - such as Evey, Little and Big Dalton Canyons - should be nominate arota.

This copper is single-brooded, with larval development occurring before flights (April-July depending on elevation); they overwinter in the egg. Only this species of copper uses plants from the Glossulariaceae family as their host.

Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota arota
I made a special trip to San Diego County hoping for just this shot: a female Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota arota - in good condition with open wings. This was the payoff. Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve (near Julian), July 28, 2019. Thanks to Brett Badeaux for posting online that these were flying.
Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota
Another female. The tails of females are a bit longer than the tails of the males.
Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota
Males emerge earlier than females, and were more worn than the females.
Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota
Another male from the Volcan Mountain excursion. I saw no difference between the behavior and looks of these males and those I know well now from Santa Anita Canyon's nubila population. It's the female wing colors that should be different.
Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota
The Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota - at Big Dalton Canyon, San Gabriels, July 8, 2006. I saw several males that day perched at various places waiting for females to fly by. I revisited this site in 2019; it was unpleasant, with some trails neglected and overgrown, and I only saw a single, worn male arota. I was hoping to compare females from Santa Anita and Big Dalton canyons, but now that I've got nom. arota from Volcan Mountain, I can concentrate on the Santa Anita Canyon nubila.
Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota
Another Tailed Copper, same day.
Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota
This female was slowly walking around a stalk of host Ribes californicum searching for the perfect place to oviposit. Volcan Mountain, July 28, 2019.
Egg of the Tailed Copper - Lycaena arota
Here is the resulting egg.
Ribes californicum
The host at Volcan Mountain is Ribes californicum var hesperium - Hillside or California Gooseberry.

©Dennis Walker