Sunday, August 20, 2017

The 2017 Egg Lay

So you thought this was a good Purple Emperor season? Certainly, the Emperors were blessed with much fine weather, which might mean that activity levels were very high. 

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that actual adult numbers were unusually high. In fact, numbers of the Knepp Wildlands transect (established in 2014) were comparable to 2015, which seems to have been a  'reasonably good' year... Peak day counts in 2015 and 2017 were around 36 (36, on a single transect, you ask! Yes, 36, along a two hour route). 

I've been carrying out standardized counts of eggs and late summer / autumn larvae in and around Savernake Forest since 2009, by ground searching with a shepherd's crook. The methodology doesn't keep to the same route, but tracks new breeding grounds as they develop and abandons old ones as they degenerate, and involves 40 hours of searching annually. It is based on the assumption that the females lay the same percentage of eggs low down each year (there's no evidence either way).   

I am about two-thirds of the way through this year's monitoring, and think the final tally will be in the region of 26-28. That's an improvement on last year's nadir but is certainly not a bumper year - and iris does have bumper years. Here's the data -

          2009          141
          2010            59
          2011            21
          2012            22
          2013          190
          2014            24
          2015            20
          2016            17
          2017            ??

The only other person I know of who counts / monitors / surveys eggs &larvae is Brother Dennis (who likes to be known as The Setaceous Hebrew Character - being hirsute, Jewish and characterful. The original Setaceous Hebrew Character was, of course, the Baron de Worms, Heslop's great friend). 

Dennis is struggling to find any this year in 'Bucks Best Wood' - a privately owned wood which the enlightened owner manages with iris strongly in mind, and is choked with sallow.  

I am also struggling to find larvae at Knepp...

Any other information?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Purple Emperor on Test Match Special

Delighted to have orchestrated a mention of the Monarch of all the Butterflies into the celebratory TMS@60 programme. It's around 54.00 minutes into the programme, and introduces the infamous Lords streaker of 1975 (who, incredibly, was called Michael Angelo).

Here's the BBC Radio Iplayer link 

The point of this, is that it's important that the Emperor continues to race ahead of other butterflies in media and public standing, especially the unmentionable members of the Entomological Riff-Raff Club (like the effete mothy thing which flaps around in the Norfolk Broads and that Blue which is so stupid it became extinct).  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Iris broods – a question for the ‘Empire fraternity!

Hi folks,

I have a quick question for the 'Empire's experts as I think it is unlikely I'll bump into Neil or Matthew for a year or so! Is a second iris brood a total impossibility? Does this happen elsewhere in the world where there may be longer periods of warmth and light? Or do the larvae universally require sustained periods of low light and cold to develop properly and pupate? Thank you.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Norfolk Emperors

Interesting news from BC Norfolk, male & female Iris reported on consecutive days from Sheringham Park NT.  No dates or details given.  I had heard rumours of sightings last year but it's a large site and 'needle in haystack' spring to mind.  Wonder how they got there?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hampstead Heath


I have also emailed the Herts and Middlesex Branch about a possible sighting of Apatura iris in Hampstead Heath.
I note that there have been a few sightings since 2015.
On 21st July I am reasonably sure I saw one maybe two iris near the Leg of Mutton Pond/Deer enclosure/Childrens play area of Golders Hill Park/Hampstead Heath.
They were clearly large Nymphalids and I have seen iris numerous times, they could have been escapees of a tropical nymphalid (eg Parthenos Sylvia) from the nearby Butterfly Green house in Golders Hill Park.
They flew between large Oaks at 25m.
I cannot be completely sure but it is possible that they could be.
There are possible breeding areas nearby, I know the area very well as I grew up in Golders Green
Let us hope that this magnificent butterfly is extending its range, the good warm weather recently I believe is ideal weather for species extending their ranges

Monitoring the last sightings

Today, two seen in Waterperry Wood by the Campbells; one female, looking fresh!

Friday, July 21, 2017


Sorry, in fact there has been a nice discussion on dispersal! [but not yet on influence of light and temperature]