The marvellous Purple Emperor

The marvellous Purple Emperor


Posted 21st June


The male purple emperor is a stunning butterfly with a beautiful sheen

Keep your eyes peeled for it feeding around the treetops in woodlands, or on damp ground, animal droppings or even carrion in the morning.

Protected in the UK, the strikingly beautiful butterfly is only on the wing for a short period during the late summer (June to August). A large butterfly of the woodlands, it is well known for spending time in the treetops, where it will feed on aphid honeydew. Therefore, a pair of binoculars could be handy if you're hoping to spot one.

Males can be seen flying to the ground mid-morning to feed on salts and sugars in damp puddles, on animal droppings or road surfaces, and even on rotting carcases.

These caterpillars will mainly feed on goat willow, although both crack-willow and grey willow are used.

They make an unmistakeable sight - the male purple emperor is a glossy purple above, with white bands across its wings and orange-ringed eyespots under the brown forewings. Females are larger than the males and both are larger than the more common white admiral.

Found in southern England, did you know the male purple emperors are known to travel up to a kilometre from their feeding areas as they gather in 'master trees' (usually oaks, but beech and conifer can also be used), where they compete for females. These trees are often the high point in the wood and can be used year after year.

Information and image courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts





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