Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)
2018 is turning out to be an excellent year for the Purple Emperor in my local woodlands. My first official sighting this season came on Tuesday, 17th June, with several sightings in the traditional areas of Chiddingfold Forest. Numbers have been steadily building and on Monday, 25th June 2018, I counted at least 25 separate males and had multiple sightings of many individuals. It has also been a good year for iris aberrations with at least three ab. afflicta (Cabeau, 1910) being observed to date; the first found by Jan Wilczur on the 25th June.
The current heatwave has meant that the best time to see grounded males is early morning; the earlier the better. By early-mid-morning, when all remnants of any early moisture have evaporated, the males have been observed flying low over the woodland tracks and, when not searching the sallows for females, nearly always alighting in areas of shade where they actively try to extract minerals from the parched ground. Both sexes can also be found feeding from sap runs though these can be difficult to locate. By midday, both sexes, probably due to the extreme temperatures, have been resorting to their arboreal home where they bask in the shade - I can’t say I blame them.