This little butterfly, the smallest of our coppers, frequents riverbeds, stream edges and shingle beds. It is often overlooked because of its small size and its habit of flying close to the ground over its host plant M. axillaris, sunning itself on stones or shingle, from which it absorbs heat. The male shimmers with an iridescent purple hue, while the female has a more coppery colour.
When folded, the butterfly’s wings match the stony habitat perfectly, making it almost invisible. These butterflies use Muehlenbeckia axillaris and M. ephedroides as host plants.
The MBNZT currently follows the naming protocols for the four Lycaena species as identified by Dr George Gibbs in his 1980's book, 'New Zealand Butterflies: Identification and Natural History'. However, while researching his book ‘Butterflies of the South Pacific’ (2012) Brian Patrick concludes there may be more than one species, possibly even 20 different Lycaena species, hence our Butterfly Discovery Project.