Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)
Surrey Woodland, 4 July 2016
The Purple Emperor is a magnificent and generally 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 spectacular 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 opened beyond a certain angle, 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.
The above three images show two freshly emerged males …