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Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire - Branch Logo featuring the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.Butterfly Conservation.

Butterflies - Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)

Probably the most magnificent butterfly to be seen in Britain, the Purple Emperor is an enigmatic butterfly and is the second largest in Britain.

The deep purple colouration of the male Purple Emperor is a result of light refraction by ridges on the wing scales. It is only visible from certain angles depending upon the direction of light. The females lack this colouration being primarily dark grey-brown but with larger eye spots towards the rear of the hind wings. Both sexes have a broken flash of white across the forewings. The underside has a large eyespot used to deter predators.

It flies high in the tree-tops where it feeds on aphid honeydew and sap runs. They never visit flowers to feed but are often seen feeding on the ground on animal faeces, carrion or salts left as puddles evaporate.

The males are known to travel more than 1000 metres from their breeding areas, gathering in what are known as master trees where the males compete for females which are seen less often.

  • Larval Food Plants
  • Habitat
  • Status
  • Key Sites
  • Links
  • Photographs

Goat Willow (Salix caprea)
Grey Willow (Salix cinerea)
Crack Willow (Salix fragilis)

The Purple Emperor occurs in expansive broad-leaved woodland or in areas where there are clusters of smaller wooded areas where the larval foodplant is abundant.

Resident in Warwickshire.

Ryton Wood (WWT Reserve)
Wappenbury Wood (WWT Reserve)
Oversley Wood (Forestry Commission)

Find out more about the Purple Emperor online at the following links;

Flight Chart
The flight chart below is based on observations of the adult Purple Emperor butterfly in Warwickshire between 2005 and 2008. Peak periods are shown in dark green.

Purple Emperor Flight Chart

Distribution Maps

Purple Emperor - 2011 records / distribution. Purple Emperor - 2010 records / distribution. Purple Emperor - 2000 to 2009 records / distribution.
2011 (1yr) 2010 (1yr) 2000-09 (10yr)

Purple EmperorPurple Emperor © Steven Cheshire - Northamptonshire

Annual First Sightings
First sighting dates are based on records of Purple Emperor submitted online. Please note that these dates are not updated retrospectively to include records submitted to the branch recorder in other forms.

22/06/2018 Oversley Wood

19/06/2017 Oversley Wood

06/07/2016 Oversley Wood

02/07/2015 Spernal Park

21/06/2014 Oversley Wood

10/07/2013 Oversley Wood

17/07/2012 Oversley Wood

26/06/2011 Oversley Wood

29/06/2010 Oversley Wood

24/06/2009 Oversley Wood

04/07/2008 Bull & Butcher Wood and Princethorp

29/06/2007 Ryton Wood

Other Species

Please select an alternative species from the list below.