Apatura iris

Purple Emperor

euroButterflies

by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2016

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Photo: iris

SE Serbia, June 2012

Male showing iridescent sheen.

Photo: iris

SE Serbia, June 2012

The same male from a slightly different angle.

Field notes and information

A truly majestic species of mature woodland. The male is best known for its striking flash of purple that can be seen from certain angles. This is illustrated in the photos. The female lacks the blue flash.

Identification & Similar species: The two other purple emperors, Apatura, species from the region are similar. The current species is the only one with a bold white wedge marking on the underside hindwing. The upperside forewing lacks an orange spot and the upperside hindwing has a white band of roughly uniform width with a single protusion end of the cell.

Distribution & Flight: Sporadic in north Spain and south UK, then France and eastwards, absent from most of Italy, south Balkans and most of Scandinavia. Single brooded from late June and July.

Habitat & Behaviour: Mature deciduous or mixed woodland with rides and clearings.

It soars high around the tree tops for most of the day but early in the morning or on cloudy days it can be found on the ground taking salts from mud, faeces and dead animals. Human sweat is another favourite. A butterfly will stay on skin for a long time drinking sweat. I once had one on my arm for 20 minutes before we drove off. Even with my arm out of the window at about 80 kph the butterfly kept drinking in the full force of the wind. Eventually I had to shake it off as we left the forest for less suitable habitat!

Photo: iris

SE Serbia, June 2012

Photo: iris

Genève, Switzerland, June 2014

Photo: iris

Genève, Switzerland, June 2014

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SE Serbia, June 2012

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Macedonia, Greece, July 2004

Male taking salts.

Photo: iris

Slovensky Kras, Slovakia, July 2001

The purple flash of the male obvious.

Photo: iris

Macedonia, Greece, July 2004

Photo: iris

Valais, Switzerland, June 2015