Butterfly history of Somerset, England

This video from the Czech republic says about itself:

Large CopperLycaena dispar (Haworth, 1803) – male

27 May 2009

Large Copper – Lycaena dispar (Haworth, 1803) is quite common in SE Moravia where I live and expands from there to the North and also to the West.

From dispar journal in Britain:

A History of the British Large Copper Lycaena dispar dispar and the Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae in Somerset

Peter Andrews

Abstract: It has been over twenty years since the late Roger Sutton published information regarding the specimens of the British Large Copper Lycaena dispar dispar and the Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae in the Taunton Museum collections. This paper reevaluates these historic specimens, which are now held at the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton. Further information is also provided on the Somerset collectors that are thought to have encountered both of those Lycaena species on the Somerset Levels. The paper also mentions the further discovery of early specimens of Large and Scarce Coppers that may have originated in Somerset.


In the collections of the Taunton Heritage Centre are the remains of five specimens of the British Large Copper Lycaena dispar dispar that are said to have been caught in the marshes at Langport in the Somerset Levels during the early part of the 19th century. The collections also contain a specimen of the Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae said to be taken at Langport.

The status of the Large Copper and Scarce Copper in Britain

The Large Copper was once found in a number of colonies in the fens of Eastern England but became extinct in the middle of the 19th century when the fens were drained (Salmon, 2000).

The Scarce Copper was considered a British species by the early Aurelians. William Lewin was one of the few early Aurelians to correctly identify the Scarce Copper as L. virgaureae. He wrote “In the month of August I once met with two of these butterflies, settled on a bank in the marshes, the sun at that time being very hot on them; they were exceedingly shy and would not suffer me to approach them” (Lewin, 1795). On the continent this species is not normally found in a fenland habitat but it is possible that this extinct butterfly flew in the drier areas in such localities in Britain. There are also records of the Scarce Copper from the East Anglian Fens (Salmon, 2000). In the Dalean collection at Oxford there is a male specimen of L. virgaureae that is labelled with a location of the Isle of Ely. Unfortunately, the activities of unscrupulous 19th century dealers who imported numbers of L. virgaureae from the European continent and sold them as British specimens have caused much confusion (Allan, 1966).

6 thoughts on “Butterfly history of Somerset, England

  1. Pingback: Butterfly history of Somerset, England | Gaia Gazette

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