The male iris seen by that most reliable of observers, Ken Willmott, at Bookham Common on Fri 'June' 29th has not been followed by other sightings. Several people looked there unsuccessfully on Sat 30th and again yesterday, 'July' 1st. Also, none was seen in sunny but windy conditions in Alice Holt and Southwater Woods on Sat 30th, two other early sites. It looks like Ken's male was an unusually early and atypical individual, which must have pupated early on during the hot spell we had in late May. Still no confirmation of the Ruislip sighting on Thurs 29th.
Yesterday, I visited Fermyn Woods, Northants, to meet up with contemporary arts film-maker Tomoko Take who is over here to make a film about people's attitudes to this butterfly. I'm worried that the Emperor wont appear there until after she flies home on 11th July. I have never experienced such a paucity of winged insects as in the Fermyn complex yesterday. The butterflies offered the weakest of scatterings of Ringlet - so abundant there when it gets going, a mere 2 Meadow Brown (males), half a dozen mangled Speckled Woods and less than 10 Large Skipper (which should be numerous). White-letter Hairestreak wasn't out (checked three colonies). Also, just three species of hoverfly (<10 individuals), four of bee, etc. - and only a few Common Clegs. The miasma of myriad winged Diptera, characteristic of forests during the midsummer period, was strangely missing.
I left pondering whether I'd just experienced the worst depletion of high summer forest winged insects since the FC of old aerial sprayed Bernwood Forest with DDT a few decades back in an attempt to counter an outbreak of Green Oak Roller moth Tortrix viridana?! Moreover, I encountered over 20 Emperor enthusiasts in Fermyn - at least a week early. The message is simple: Hold back.
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