Scientific Name: Apatura iris (Nymphalidae Apaturinae).
English Name: Purple Emperor (Brush-footed butterfly family, Purple Emperor sub-family).
French Name: Le Grand Mars changeant (='greater changing Mars').
5 Key Characters:
- no 'eye' on upper surface of upper wing.
- dark antennae tips.
- large (67 - 85 mm wingspan).
- upper side brownish black with a white band crossing both wings.
- males reflect dark blue on the upper side.
Lookalikes: Lesser Purple Emperor Apatura ilia, which has an 'eye' on the upper side of the upper wing, a less defined pattern on the underside and bright yellow antennae tips.
Habitat: Woodland edges and forest clearings, especially with old Ash trees Fraxinus excelsior. The banks of étangs (fish ponds) and flood plain forests. Sometimes in secondary pine forest if there is an understorey of Goat Willow Salix caprea. Males will descend from the treetops to drink and feed in forest rides in the morning. They are particularly attracted to stinky things, like dog poo.
Flight Period: June-July-August.
Status: Localised and not very abundant. Present in the Brenne, in the Forest of Lancosme, in the clearing round the chapel of Saint Sulpice and the clearing known as le rond des cinq freres. Also in the Parc de Boussay.
Photographed by Loire Valley Nature: