The Purple Emperor season is in full flight in Northamptonshire. The males emerged about three weeks earlier than last year on June 22 (see Matthew Oates Times of July 1st p4). There seems to have been a long slow emergence. I saw over 40 today. All looked newly emerged and in perfect condition. Many were absorbing necessary aphrodisiac salts from the paths; some were cleaning their tongues on nearby bushes; some were scouring the sallow bushes for emerging females and some were trying to take up dominant positions high up in the most prominent oaks where they can wait for passing females.
Numbers are probably down on last year’s great high. At one site, nearly ten times as many caterpillars were found pre-hibernation as the previous year. But the mild winter gave the predatory small birds the upper hand and the larvae were decimated.
(A short service was organised by Matthew. It was attended by some enthusiasts and several passing emperors. The officiating cleric had a purple stole embroidered with butterflies (a symbol of the resurrection).
We give thanks that this prime emperor site which is west of the National Trust house, Lyveden New Bield, has been spared a huge wind farm. This would have effectively separated two key areas of woodland. We all support Green Energy but ways must be found which are not injurious to our fragile wild life.)
It will be well worth visiting any of the prime sites in next fortnight (see Matthew’s Purple Empire blog for photographs and useful information).
Yours, John Woolmer (Prebendary)