[Tweeters] Re Butterfly Question from Jeff Gibson

D&J Nunnallee nunnallee at comcast.net
Fri May 15 20:34:42 PDT 2015

The following submitted on behalf of Bob Pyle (via David Nunnallee)


Many thanks for your intriguing observation, Jeff, and for your kind words
about my book. Thank you too, Kelly, for your response to Jeff. I agree with
your diagnosis that what Jeff is most likely to have seen is a female
Purplish Copper. These can be much brighter orange than the pix on p. 183 in
Cascadia, Jeff. They might nectar on either the Beach Pea or the Sand

A Lustrous Copper at Port Townsend would be a vast stretch. While Rosy
Finches do sometimes come down from the arctic-alpine heights to the beach
in winter, Lustrous Coppers are known in Washington only as strict obligates
of the highest ridges in the north-central part of the state--all known
records, in fact, are near Slate Peak. Its sole known hostplant is Alpine
sorrel (Oxyria digyna), a high-montane plant, while the Purplish Copper
feeds as a caterpillar on several common low-country docks and knotweeds,
native and introduced, as well as Silverweed (Potentilla pacifica) at the
coast. So Lycaena helloides does seem your most likely candidate. Lycaena
cupreus on Puget Sound would be much, much more notable than the Rustic
Bunting I had in my back yard for two winters running here in Gray's River.
Stranger things have seldom happened. But who knows?

If this ID still doesn't satisfy, Jeff, I recommend going back for a photo,
as Kelly suggests, or a voucher specimen (remember, these are insects, not
birds). You could make history! Thanks again for reporting your butterfly
sighting. And by the way, when you're birding/butterflying the beaches
around there, please be on the lookout for small blues around the Black
Knotweed (Polygonum paronychium), such as the good stand around the PT
lighthouse; and if you see any, please let me know.

Bob Pyle


Just back from the dunes of Point Wilson here in Port Townsend, where on a
bug/flower/whatever watching tour I noted a new to me butterfly. It was
snooping about the blooming Grey - leaved Beach Pea ( Lathyrus littoralis).
Sand Verbena is also blooming down there now.

Anyhoo, I got a real good close-up view of the critter with my super-dooper
close focusing binocs, and made some field notes. Rushing back to the ranch
(where I've recently been reunited with my butterfly books that I'd had back
in Everett) , I was able to definitively ID the bug as a Lustrous Copper -
all the little details matched the photo in Mister Pyle's excellent
butterfly bible to a T.

Alas, the Lustrous Copper is a life form that aint supposed to be around
here. Yet, at least based on the photo in the book, that's what I saw. While
not much of a butterflier, I have been watching them for years and am
familiar with the general categories of those bugs.

So my question is - has anyone else seen a Lustrous Copper out of range, or
is there something else I could have confused it with around here? Like I
said, the size (about an inch wingspan) and all the details match the photo
in Pyle, page 172! Any comments would be appreciated.

Jeff Gibson
bugging you from
Port Townsend Wa


David & Jo Nunnallee
Sammamish, WA
nunnallee at comcast.net

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