Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fermyn without any shrimp paste

A few days ago I was thinking. It's July, I really should try to see Purple Emperors again. With an underwhelming lifetime count of one in 2012 and one in 2013 (both in Fermyn Woods), I should really see some more, so I consulted this excellent website. On 3rd July Matthew told us all in the blog to drop everything and head for the woods, and who am I to argue? So on Friday afternoon off I went to Fermyn. And it was magical. Over a four-hour period I saw about a dozen, which although a low count compared with other subjects of the Empire who visited in recent days, was more than enough for me. But I would appreciate some help with male/female ID when the wings are closed or when the uppersides are not at the correct angle to get the blue. Lewington says "the difference between the sexes is clear", but that's seems to me like a bit of a cop-out.

For instance, what is this? I only got the chance for a couple of shots:


From reading other pages on this site, I have gathered the importance of keeping eyes trained upwards, even at the risk of developing Purple Emperor Neck, and sure enough high up in the branches these three were engaged in some sort of symposium. After a very short time it descended into squabbling and two of them went off in a huff. Can anybody tell me what was going on? Is one a female?

Anyway, a great trip, despite my forgetting to bring any shrimp paste. I'll know next time.


BB said...

Hi Ian -great bit of observation seeing the three in the Sallow - I think the one with open wings might well be a female being hassled by two males.
The key difference between males and females is sheer size and also habits - females are much bigger and appear more 'rounded' in wing shape and only rarely come to the ground - you are more likely to see them gliding around and 'inside' mature sallows. If you see both together ( which rarely happens!) there is no doubt - one you have seen a few females the difference is indeed very clear and you normally do not need to rely on seeing purple

Unknown said...

Hi BB,

Thanks for the feedback. Sounds like I shall have to get used to Purple Emperor Neck and keep peering upwards! Cheers, Ian

Matthew Oates said...

The shot of the lone one looks like a female to me. The other is certainly of 2 males pestering a mated female, having gunned her down... I'm rather envious of that photo...

Neil Hulme said...

Hi Ian,
Yes, the insect in your first shot is a female. She's a typical mid brown (rather than the darker, bluish brown of a male refusing to flash purple), has more broadly rounded wingtips, and shows a wider white band across the hind wings than a male.
I agree with BB - the second shot shows an already mated female trying to throw off a couple of amorous males.
BWs, Neil

irisscientist said...

Likewise I am very jealous of the group shot, an excellent photo. Can't say however that I totally agree with some of the other comments. Yes 2 males pestering a female (pre-mated?), however simple photoshopping of the image adjusting the light-contrast balance easily reveals that both of those with the wings open have the very distinctive purple coloration. I will certainly post the modified/adjusted image if you like? I would predict the female was the one with her wings tightly closed. After retreating to a suitable tree-top locality and exchanging some antennal touches, the males would approach the female from behind. To my knowledge (?) natural mating in the Apaturinae has only every been documented in a single publication:

In this publication the female tightly closed her wings just prior to a male approaching from behind and inserting his head between her unfolded wings. Mating occurred moments later with the male curling his abdomen forward. From looking at the photo something similar appears to be happening here. Do you perhaps have any others taken just before/after this one?

Like I said however, a truly great and interesting shot. Great job.


irisscientist said...

Sorry, slight typo in my previous post which should have read "a male approaching from behind and inserting his head between her up-folded wings". Sorry about any confusion this may have caused.


Unknown said...

Many thanks for the various comments. I have a whole series of photos (13 in all) of the gathering with the individuals in constant movement, which may well clarify what is going on. Am I right in thinking that I cannot attach images to a comment but must make a new posting? - it would be nice to keep the same thread. Irisscientist - the adjusted image sounds interesting - please post it if possible.
Cheers, Ian

irisscientist said...


WOW, 13 images in a series, I would love to see these. Like you say, I am not sure it is possible to post images to comments, or at least I don't know how. Maybe others know more about this? Considering you wanted to keep everything in a single thread I have uploaded the modified image to (which is totally free). The image can be downloaded via the link here:

Would be possible for you to do something similar with the rest of the images in the series, ideally in sequential order? Alternatively please just post in a new thread, as I am sure others would also love to see them.



BB said...

Hi Ian
It would be great if you could post some or all of the images in a new post - I am sure they will stimulate great interest
Kind regards