Sunday, April 15, 2018

Out of Hibernation & Starting to Feed

Emperor larva are coming out of hibernation. Some are starting to feed. They are not particularly late and are actually  a week ahead of where they were in 2013, when March was even colder, and feeding didn't start until 23rd April. In 2015 feeding commenced on 15th April, in 2010 and 2012 it commenced on the 18th.

Here's one from Savernake yesterday, the 14th, who has already started to feed (note damage to outer leaf of swelling leaf bud):

And here's Sav No 13, who I'm desperately trying not to call Stumpy. He lost most of one of his horns in mysterious circumstances late last September, but carried on regardless. It will be interesting to see how he looks once he changes to the 4th instar, around May Day. He too has jumped the gun and has fed from a swelling bud:

The really good news is that this winter's predation rate was only 25%, albeit from a small sample. This is the lowest predation rate in hibernation I've recorded in nine year's of following larvae in the wild. It suggests that this could be a very good Emperor season, weather permitting.

So, do what I've just done and ditch your job (I've retired, early - had enough...) and cast yourself into the Purple Sea... There is no alternative...

Monday, April 2, 2018

Spring Blues

Will we get a spring this year?  What will summer be like?  Hopefully as good as last June.  I have yet to see a butterfly of any description so far this year in north east Norfolk.  To lift my spirits I've been looking through my images from last summer, my first encounter with Iris.  If you too are feeling down here's a couple of piccies to cheer you up.  Brian.
Slurping the Fermyn salt
HIM holdind court

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Knepp Emperors on TV!

Channel 5's new British wildlife series Wild Great Britain at 9pm on Tues March 13th features Hulme and Oates in a eulogy to the Purple Emperor, recorded at Knepp Wildland last July.

Neil and I haven't seen it (contributors never see programmes in advance) but it should be seriously good.  If it's tosh, complain to Channel 5...

Sunday, February 4, 2018


We have entered the dangerous late winter period when hibernating Emperor larvae are most vulnerable to predation. I checked my six wild, unprotected larvae on Jan 16th and was delighted to find that all were again present and correct. No losses to mid-January - wow!

However, today I found that No 1 has vanished. I double-searched for him and shouldn't have missed him, had he moved. It's possible that he's moved and that I overlooked him, as he had previously moved twice after entering full hibernation. He moved a massive 1.5m between Nov 19th and Dec 3rd, and he then moved again between Dec 3rd and Jan 1st, just 15cm. Emperor larvae shouldn't move at all in hibernation, but are doing so increasingly during this era of mild winters (and January was, again, warmer than average in southern England) - one of my three captive larvae at home has moved four times this winter.

Also today, I found that larva No 9 has moved, 11cm, from bud to fork, between Jan 16th and Feb 4th (the temp reached 12C on Jan 28th and was around 10C on four other days in late Jan).  He has also shrunk a bit, which is a trifle worrying.

We need a proper spell of hard winter weather to drive the tit flocks out of the forests, and provide some protective frost and snow cover for hibernating larvae.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tomorrow Belongs To Me!

The dear little angel, below, some 9mm long, is spending five months in deepest meditation - contemplating terrorizing anything that moves in the midsummer tree tops, irrespective of size. If it's going to be male it will behave like an Uruk Hai orc; if female, a fire-breathing dragon. It seeks nothing short of world domination. Our task, as People of Purple Persuasion, is to help it realize that ambition...

The good news is that all six of the larvae I'm following through in the Savernake Forest area, Wilts, survived December (and November). This is a good omen, for truly great Purple Emperor years are born during winters of low predation (though I would have liked  a slightly bigger sample).  

And here's another, of the unusual all-brown colour form -