Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 709–721 | Cite as

Habitat and host plant use of the Large Copper Butterfly Lycaena dispar in an urban environment

  • Martin Strausz
  • Konrad Fiedler
  • Markus Franzén
  • Martin Wiemers


The Large Copper (Lycaena dispar) has been extensively studied due to its high conservation priority. The species has declined severely in North-West Europe, but is currently expanding in Central and North-East Europe. In this study, we investigated egg deposition patterns at three different spatial scales (site, plant, and leaf level) for L. dispar at 23 sites within the municipality of Vienna (Austria). In one season, a total of 2,457 eggs were counted on six Rumex species, of which two (R. stenophyllus, R. patientia) represent novel host plant records. Rumex crispus harboured 87.6% of all egg counts and was significantly preferred (4.4 eggs per plant) over the second-ranked R. obtusifolius for oviposition (1.1 eggs per plant). At the habitat scale, eggs were observed at all study sites. Egg numbers per site were equal across landscape zones, including stretches of waste land in urban habitats, except for lower egg numbers on meadows at the margin of the Vienna forest. Mowing was negatively related to the number of eggs found on all three studied scales. We conclude that L. dispar eggs are easier to find compared to adult butterflies, the butterfly can utilize more host plant species than what was previously known, and that mowing has a strong negative influence on the local butterfly populations. Urban wastelands provide important habitats, in which the species can sustain substantial population densities which are in comparison to those in the countryside. Conservation action should focus on applying less intensive rotational mowing, preferably involving mowing of suitable sites every 2 years.


Climate change Indicator species Occurrence pattern Range shift Urban ecology Vienna 



We thank Luise Ehrendorfer-Schratt for determination of dock plants. Harald Gross and Klaus Kramer (Environmental Department, Municipality of Vienna, MA 22) kindly made available aerial photographs and GIS data for selecting study sites. Financial support to MF was given by the European Commission Framework Programme (FP) 7 via the Integrated Project STEP (grant 244090). Sonja Nakasian improved the English.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Strausz
    • 1
  • Konrad Fiedler
    • 1
  • Markus Franzén
    • 2
  • Martin Wiemers
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Tropical Ecology and Animal BiodiversityUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Community EcologyHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)HalleGermany

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