Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)
Chiddingfold Forest, 7 July 2016
A. iris spends most of its time hidden in the woodland canopy where it feeds on aphid honeydew, with the occasional close encounter when it comes down to feed on sap runs or, typically in the case of the male, animal droppings, carrion or moist ground that provide much-needed nutrients. Those that make annual 'pilgrimages of obsession' to see this spectacular creature will often try and lure the males down from the canopy using all manner of temptations - including shrimp paste, fish oils, banana skins and human urine.
The female upperside is a deep brown and does not possess the purple sheen found in the male. She is also a much rarer beast and an audience with an Empress is one to be cherished. A recent trip into a less visited Sussex sector of Chiddingfold Forest produced a brief encounter with a beautiful female which alighted around head height on a nearby oak tree.