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butterfly Purple Emperor Butterflies

Identify It >   Butterfly Section >   Purple Emperors Butterflies >

Scientific name:  Apatura iris

Size:  Wingspan approximately 75mm

Distribution:  Found mainly in southern and central England and the borders of Wales

Months seen:  Late June to early September

Life span:  Up to four weeks

Habitat:  Woodlands

Food:  Honeydew, sap, rotting fruit, dung and rotting carcasses for salts and minerals

Special features:  Purple Emperors get their name from the irridescent purple colouring on the upper surfaces of the males wings.  The female lacks the purple coloring but has larger white markings.  Both the male and female Purple Emperor have eye-spot markings on the undersides of the wings, as well as a smaller eye spot on the upper surfaces of the hind wings.

Purple emperors are rarely seen on the ground except when feeding.  They are best spotted through binoculars as they fly around the tops of oak trees.

The green caterpillars have pale yellow oblique stripes on their sides and two pale green horns on the head, giving them a slug-like shape.  They feed on sallow.


2000 - Cilgerran, Cardigan - G. Bradley
2013 - Fermyn Woods, Northamptonshire - Dean Eades

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