Purple Emperor

  • Purple Emperor (male/upperwing)
    Purple Emperor (male/upperwing)
  • Purple Emperor (female/upperwing)
    Purple Emperor (female/upperwing)
  • Purple Emperor (underwing)
    Purple Emperor (underwing)
  • Purple Emperor (caterpillar)
    Purple Emperor (caterpillar)
  • Purple Emperor (pupa)
    Purple Emperor (pupa)
  • Video play iconPurple Emperor (male/upperwing)
    Purple Emperor (video)
  • Purple Emperor (male/upperwing)
    Purple Emperor (male/upperwing)
  • Purple Emperor (female/upperwing)
    Purple Emperor (female/upperwing)
  • Purple Emperor (underwing)
    Purple Emperor (underwing)
  • Purple Emperor (caterpillar)
    Purple Emperor (caterpillar)
  • Purple Emperor (pupa)
    Purple Emperor (pupa)
  • Purple Emperor (male/upperwing)
    Purple Emperor (video)

Scientific name: Apatura iris

Large and dark with white-banded wings. Males have a purple sheen.

This magnificent butterfly flies high in the tree-tops of well-wooded landscapes in central-southern England where it feeds on aphid honeydew and tree sap. The adults are extremely elusive and occur at low densities over large areas. The males occasionally descend to the ground, usually in mid-morning, where they probe for salts either from road surfaces or from animal dung.

The Purple Emperor declined steadily during the twentieth century and is now restricted to some of the larger woods in southern England. There has been a recent slight re-expansion in some areas.Restricted to large woods in southern England where they spend much of their time in the treetops. Females resemble the White Admiral, but have an orange-ringed eyespot under the forewing.  

Size and Family

  • Family – Nymphalids
  • Large Sized 
  • Wing Span Range (male to female) - 75-84mm

Conservation status

  • UK BAP status: Not listed           
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: Medium                    
  • European Status: Not threatened                           
  • Protected in Great Britain for sale only

Caterpillar Foodplants

Goat Willow (Salix caprea) is the most widely used foodplant although it breeds on Grey Willow (S.cinerea) and more rarely Crack- Willow (S. fragilis). Eggs are laid on a wide range of tree sizes, ranging from medium sized shrubs to tall canopy trees.

Distribution

  • Countries – England
  • Widespread in England and Wales, less common in Scotland and Ireland
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = Unclear due to difficulty of recording

Habitat

Found in large blocks of broadleaved woodland or clusters of smaller woods and/or dense scrub with a good supply of willow.

Factsheets

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