Friday, 3 July 2015

Close Encounters of the Purple Kind …

Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)

The season begins …

The Purple Emperor is a magnificent and elusive insect that is actively sought out by the many subjects of ‘His Majesty’, as the male butterfly is affectionately known. To say that some observers reach a state of obsession is an understatement with many followers making annual pilgrimages to see this species.

The male, which typically emerges in early July, sometimes during the last week of June in good seasons, is undoubtedly one of the most stunning and sought after of all the British butterflies. From certain angles, even at close observation, it appears to have black wings intersected with white bands. However, when the wings are at a certain angle to the sun, the most beautiful purple-blue sheen is displayed, a result of light being refracted from the structures of the wing scales. The female, on the other hand, is a deep brown and does not possess the purple sheen found in the male.

A. iris is generally best seen through the early morning and again during the late afternoon, when the males come down to the ground, on hot humid days, to take in nutrients from damp earth and animal droppings. They are also partial to sweat - a key component of Emperor watching - and readily land on observers. Despite this ‘grounding’ behaviour, both males and females spend the majority of their time resting high in their arboreal home and out of sight …


  1. Absolutely beautiful photos of The Emperor . A very informative blog - always a pleasure to read. Best wishes, Paul Cox.

  2. Thanks, Paul. Appreciated. Good hunting. Kind regards. Mark