The Large Copper (Lycaena dispar) is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae.The insect has a wide range occurring throughout the Northern Palearctic ecozone north to the middle taiga zone (Euro-Siberian region).
The British subspecies of this butterfly (dispar) has been extinct for over 144 years (since 1864). Most of our knowledge of its life cycle and ecology comes from studies of the similar subspecies (batavus or batava) found in The Netherlands. The species can be identified by the silvery hindwing undersides, from the large specimens of the related, more common, drier habitat species Lycaena virgaureae and Lycaena hippothoe.
This is one of the butterfly species classified as a priority for protection and re-introduction in the UK under its national Biodiversity Action Plan. The species has been in severe decline in Britain due to the great reduction of fen habitat due to expansion of the human population. In the rest of the Western Europe, the draining of wetlands and building and agricultural activity on shallow riverbanks has caused a strong decline. In Eastern Europe, undeveloped riverbanks and deltas are a habitat for the species, though even there it is somewhat threatened due increasing human influence on these areas.
There have been several reintroduction attempts to sites in both Britain and Ireland, but these have all ultimately failed. Research is now being conducted to see whether a further attempt is worthwhile in more extensive habitats available in the Norfolk Broads.
The subspecies Lycaena dispar batava is only found in marshy areas in North West Overijssel (the areas Weerribben and Wieden) in the Netherlands. Furthermore, it only feeds on Rumex hydrolapathum, making it a vulnerable subspecies. To protect the subspecies, there is a conservation plan, mainly aimed at expanding its habitat.