Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Kicks Off!

At least one of us was out in the Emperor's woods on New Year's Eve... I was in Savernake, with deer, tawny owls, a bat, Mottled Umber moths blundering about, shadows numberless, and church bells calling out from Marlborough. Then the fireworks took over.

Unfortunately, two of the three larvae I had marked out there have vanished (though they might have moved long distances - I need to return in daylight, as torchlight is inadequate). Larva No 9 remains, but had moved 6 cm during the mild December.

Yesterday, Jan 2nd, I checked the two larvae I have marked out in a sallow at Knepp Wildlands. Both had moved since my last visit on 27th November: one 20 cm, and the other a massive, record-breaking 2 m.  

Here's No 1 ('Raymond'):-



And here's No 2 ('Raymonda'), after a 2m sleep walk - 



She's the one with the skull marking behind her head, but it doesn't show well when she's curled round a twig scar.  

Hopefully, they'll both conk out properly now, sleep through the winter, and dream up the spring...

I've now seen iris in the wild, in one or more of its life stages, for 92 consecutive months. This is Obsession (at least I hope it is)...


The prospects for the 2017 Purple Emperor season are not great. Last year was just about the poorest season I've known (I think 1990 was worse), the egg-lay was low, and larval mortality (as measured) was again quite high during the autumn - but much depends on how well the larvae over-winter, and on spring, June and, especially, flight season weather.  

Prediction: My intuition tells me that the first 2017 iris will take to the air around high noon on 24th June. Be there!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

For the second year running I am delighted to have Apatura ilia specimens eclosing at Christmas time. These adults are the 7th consecutive generation (without diapause), confirming that diapause in this species is certainly not obligatory and that they can be continually cultured (availability of fresh food plant allowing). I was also very happy to have paired this generation meaning that another generation may yet be achieved. Many seasonal greetings to you all.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Purple Emperor at Cliveden

We are delighted to report, albeit somewhat belatedly, that His Imperial Majesty, the Purple Emperor, was photographed this summer basking wantonly beside the very swimming pool at Cliveden (NT), near Slough, in which the late John Profumo CBE and Miss Christine Keeler once brazenly cavorted, to their ephemeral delight and the nation's eternal chagrin.  

In consequence, we are offering Miss Keeler a Vice Presidency of The People of Purple Persuasion, the Purple Emperor fellowship.  Here she is in purpuratum, if not entirely in flagrante delicto- 





It must be added that by His Imperial Majesty's moral standards Miss Keeler, and indeed the late Miss Mandy Rice-Davies, are paragons of virtue.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Super Race - Death-eaters...

Here's further proof of the development of a new super race of iris at Knepp Wildlands, The Death-eaters...  Just look at the skull markings on this one -


Photoed on Sun Nov 27th 2016.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Into Hibernation...

Some ten days into supposed hibernation, and they've been moving around quite a bit - this one moved 45cm between 14th and 19th November: it's been too mild, again...  We need some cold weather to make them conk out... (Savernake)




Monday, November 14, 2016

Emperors of the fens

In late July 2013, I read a report from the Great Fen Project web site concerning the existence at Woodwalton Fen of a "small population of Purple Emperor Butterflies" - and I suspect I was not alone in raising an eyebrow in surprise at this information.It certainly did not fit in with my belief in the type of habitat I expected to visit in order to see this insect. Come forward three years, to mid-July 2016, when Nigel and I have finished with our Fermyn patrols, and have travelled to Weerribben-Wieden National Park in the province Overijssel - the largest freshwater wetlands of North-west Europe. Discarding the cloak of Imperial Purple, we have come to see the Prince of Orange, a.k.a. batavus in his watery stronghold. However, within an hour of arriving, we are enjoying the company of an Empress, who then flies to a nearby birch tree to dine on a sap run. Local enthusiasts inform us this is not a common sight here, but during our week-long stay, we achieve plenty of sightings, including a count of six females on a damaged oak tree, which was also popular with atalanta. This spot proved to be very reliable for sightings during our stay, and we often made a detour on our bikes to view Herself dining on the sap runs. I can recommend this place to anyone who wishes to see batavus, although don't expect to achieve many sightings, as it is uncommon even here and many hours need to be put in searching the likely areas. It was also great to see Iris in numbers here too, and this insect appears to thrive at this time in the fen and broadland habitat so reminiscent of the wetlands of East Anglia. Perhaps both batavus and iris will thrive in our own country, once the Great Fen Project matures in the years to come, and I welcome the opportunity to see them in such circumstances...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Colouring Up...

The few larvae I'm following this autumn / winter are colouring up and wandering off the leaves. Some have undoubtedly entered hibernation - they're hard to find until all the leaves are off. In mild dry autumns they can travel several metres before conking out for diapause. Oh for a cold, wet and thoroughly miserable late October / early November, so that they only crawl a little way - but every year of my study that period has been mild and dry, and larvae have gone walkabout big time...

Here's Savernake No 10 today -



Here's the two main seat and feeder leaves of Savernake No 1, today, dangling from silk strands. This larva is probably in hibernation as it was on an early leaf fall sallow. Note the first / second instar seat pad & feeding marks on the broadside leaf.