Lucia limbaria (Swainson, 1833)
Chequered Copper
(previously known as Polyommatus limbaria)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Lucia limbaria
(Photo: courtesy of Wes Jenkinson, Beaudesert, Queensland)

This Caterpillar is off-white and hairy, with a number of pale and dark brown longitudinal stripes. It has a black plate on the thorax and on the last abdominal segment. It is usually attended by numerous small black ants of the species :

  • Iridomyrmex bicknelli and/or
  • Iridomyrmex rufoniger,


    The caterpillar feeds on various species of Oxalis (OXALIDACEAE), including :

  • Creeping Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata),
  • Indian Sorrel (Oxalis exilis), and
  • Creeping Yellow Oxalis (Oxalis perennans).

    Initially it just eats the surface of a leaf, but later instars eat the whole leaf. When not feeding, the caterpillar hides in an ants' nest chamber in the soil at the base of the foodplant. The caterpillar grows to a length of about 2 cms.

    Lucia limbaria
    Photo: by Lindsay Hunt, from
    Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden : What to Grow and Conserve in the Adelaide Region,
    published by Butterfly Conservation South Australia Inc.

    The pupa is initially green, changing to brown as it matures. Its length is about 1 cm. It is formed in the ants' nest.

    Lucia limbaria
    (Photo: courtesy of Judy Ormond, Nathalia, Victoria )

    The adults are brown on top with chequered margins. Each forewing also has a large yellow patch and two black spots.

    Lucia limbaria
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    Underneath, the forewings are yellow, and the hindwings are pale brown, both with arcs of darker brown spots outlined in white. The butterflies have a wing span of about 3 cms.

    Lucia limbaria
    (Photo: courtesy of Matthew Frawley, Mount Taylor, Australian Capital Territory)

    The eggs are white and mandarin-shaped with a lot of pale green dimples. They are laid singly or in small groups and covered in scales. They are sometimes laid under a leaf, or on the upper surface of a lower leaf, of a foodplant. The eggs have a diameter of about 0.8 mm.

    Lucia limbaria
    eggs, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Walker, Millmerran, Queensland)

    The species has been found in

  • Queensland,
  • Lord Howe Island,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria, and
  • South Australia.

    Lucia limbaria
    drawing by William John Swainson, listed as Polyommatus limbaria,

    Zoological Illustrations,Series 2, Volume 3, Part 29 (1833), Plate 135,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

    Further reading :

    Andrew Atkins, John Moss,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club
    Newsletter, Issue 48 (March 2008), pp. 1, 4-8.

    Michael F. Braby,
    Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 627-628.

    Murdoch de Baar,
    Lucia limbaria, the Chequered Copper, some extra notes,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 50 (September 2008), pp. 10-11,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Wesley Jenkinson,
    Life History Notes on the Grassland or Chequered Copper, Lucia linbaria: Lycaenidae,
    Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club Newslettter,
    Issue 49 (June 2008), pp. 14-17.

    William John Swainson,
    Zoological Illustrations,
    Series 2, Volume 3, Part 29 (1833), p. 135, and also Plate 135.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 23 February 2011, 20 September 2013, 4 August 2020, 9 September 2021)