One of Britains most beautiful Butterflies

This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Terry 1 year, 12 months ago.

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  • #35159

    Terry
    Moderator

    July until mid August in the Southern parts of the UK is the flight period of one of our most regal and Beautiful British Butterflies, the Purple Emperor Apatura Iris and for those in New Zealand who may be interested in how the season is progressing, here is a link to a websites blog page where enthusiasts post sightings and some really nice photos from their recent field trips. I think you will understand after viewing the photos why the male has the nickname “His Royal Highness”
    I hope this will cheer some of you up as you go through your southern hemisphere winter months.

    http://apaturairis.blogspot.co.uk/

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  • #44785

    Terry
    Moderator

    As I know you are all suffering the New Zealand winter at the moment I thought I would try and cheer you all up by telling you about a very lucky day for me which was the 17th July 2015. As many of you who have looked at the links to my forays in to the local reserves looking for rare butterflies will know one of my best loved sites is the Sheepleas reserve on the edge of the North Downs in Surrey. On the day in question I asked my Father if he would like to go for a quick walk around the sheepleas. The weather was far from perfect and on the cloudy and cool side. I did not expect to see much this day. We normally walk on the right hand path leading up the highest point and then walk across the high point down to the wild flower meadows and back to the car park in an anti clockwise route, and decided to do the same on this day. Just before the top point where the path turns left by an old Yew Tree I spotted a large black Butterfly heading down low along the path toward us. I recognised it as a female Purple Emperor immediately, She did not settle but flew so slowly just above the path she was easy to identify. My day was already complete after this rare and exciting spectacle, but a couple of hours later as we were headed back up the hill at the other side of the reserve just before we reached an area known as the lookout, because of it’s views out toward London a Male Purple Emperor flew toward us, again, low down just above the path. It circled around a couple of times before landing on some Dog mess at the side of the path right in front of us. The male was witnessed by two other people who were wondering why my father and I were crouched down on the path. I explained to them what we were looking at and beckoned them in slowly and they also got a close up view of him. Showing how fearless Purple Emperors can be I stroked his closed wings and then tried to get him to climb on to my hand. However he did not appreciate my attempts and after about 30 seconds and flashing his wings in warning and obvious annoyance at me flew up in to the air. After circling us just above head hight a couple of times he disappeared back up in to the tree tops and he was off on his travels again. The couple who witnessed him were very grateful to see such a beautiful butterfly so close up and went off happy.
    A week earlier I had been at Bookham Commons watching the Purple Emperor on that site where they are far more numerous, although these were refusing point blank to come anywhere near to ground level and although seen in good numbers were at the top of the Master Oak trees well out of reach.

    This years reports and photo’s from other PE fanatics can be seen here

    http://apaturairis.blogspot.co.uk/

    #35173

    Pepetuna
    Keymaster

    Wow! Thanks Terry, it has brightened up a foggy & chilly Waikato morning! Maybe I should start dreaming about a mid-winter holiday in the UK in a year or two.
    Cheers
    Kate

    #35172

    Errol
    Moderator

    Wow, quite a large one. Thanks Terry.

    #35170

    Terry
    Moderator

    Hi Errol

    Answer to your question on Purple Emperor size!

    Yellow Admiral wingspan 48-50mm
    NZ Red Admiral wingspan 50-60mm
    Purple Emperor wingspan 70-90mm

    As you can see a reasonably large Butterfly! The females trending more to the 90mm and the males slightly smaller. Only the male has the iridescent purple wings which are very difficult to photograph showing the purple on both wings, because your angle to the sun when taking the shot is critical often you can end up with a shot that shows purple on only one side and not the other.

    #35163

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    Thanks Terry, that’s very helpful. Quite different to here.

    (Wish we had “rides” like that… I’d spend all my time on a horse, butterfly hunting. Another good use for horse manure!)

    #35162

    Errol
    Moderator

    Thanks for that posting Terry, I can see why the males are called ‘His royal highness’. How big are they compared to say a Yellow Admiral?

    #35161

    Terry
    Moderator

    Hi Jacqui

    The males will come down on to rides and paths to fresh horse manure, carrion and urine both animal and human. They appear to need salts as they have been known to land on people and drink sweat from arms and hands. They are also attracted to flashing objects. I had one dive bomb my camera on the North Downs Way, near Hackhurst Down one July day just because the sun was glinting off the lens. Until that happened I never realised they were even in that area. As for feeding from sweat I have had this happen to me. You will notice on the blog a place mentioned called Botany Bay which is not too far from where I live (45 minute drive) and although I have not been there for a few years. In one particular year I had a male purple emperor land on my arm on a very hot humid day and feed on the sweat on the back of my hand. I have also approached a male which was drinking on a urine puddle in the middle of a ride, urine placed there I have to admit by myself a few minutes before, and as I approached crawling carefully with my camera to photograph him I managed to get so close I could reach toward him with my hand and he actually climbed on my finger, which was really great. Both the males and females also like tree sap and honeydew produced by aphids on tree leaves. Many Purple Emperor fanatics have there own secret mixtures that they lay on the paths at regular intervals where they have seen the butterflies over many seasons. It is not uncommon to see enthusiasts with strange looking concoctions in plastic containers laying down bait and then either waiting or wandering up and down a given stretch looking for the Butterflies as they descend to feed. Mornings are the best time to see them low down as by early afternoon the males are tree topping on a chosen so called “master tree” and can be seen battling each other or chasing the females.
    There are a few Butterfly Breeders who have mastered breeding these magnificent insects in captivity using techniques that are strictly secret. I am not privy to these methods but I know they are very successful. I encountered a lepidopterist many years ago releasing nearly 300 specimens back to the place he had originally captured 3 females a few years before but the person never told me his name and asked that I never reveal the site as the Conservation groups who think they are experts but sadly are just self deluded would kick up such a stink if they found out and would have prosecuted the poor the guy if they could. As I have stated many times before, there is not a single butterfly that needs legal protection in the UK only the habitats need protection. The Purple Emperor is not endangered at this time but many more seriously endangered UK species are actually very easy to breed in vast numbers in captivity but made more critically endangered due to idiot conservation groups getting these species “so called” legal protection meaning captive stocks essential for reintroduction schemes have to be destroyed or kept under secret conditions. It always amazes me how so many conservation groups are so unscientific in there approach and really have little or no understanding of the creatures they want to preserve. They run themselves on a purely emotional level instead of adopting a rational, scientific and intellectual approach.

    If any members of Monarch Trust are coming to the UK, to the Southern half of England in late June to early August next year or in the future and want to see these magnificent Butterflies (Amazing to see close up in real life)they just need a map and a few locations from the Bloggers on the Purple Empire website and away you go!

    #35160

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    What a beauty!

    A couple of questions, Terry:

    “well-baited” path – what is the bait?

    Gillian (and others) are photographed looking at what appears to be something left by a horse… what is that? Thanks for expanding!

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