Saturday, July 10, 2021

More Gloom & Doom

 Yet another poor weather day in The Empire, and on a key weekend day of the 2021 season. Rain moved slowly eastwards south of the M4 corridor. North of it, it was dry, but there was a lot of stagnant gloom. 

So, very few sightings reported, with few people venturing out. Neil Hulme led an afternoon Purple Emperor safari group at Knepp, which somehow managed to see five Emperors [it helps if you know where the favoured male territories are].

We are beginning to realise the extent of predation on Purple Emperor pupae. This is something I hinted at in the book, but this summer there has been a major scientific breakthrough, coupled with a technological breakthrough. 

The discovery is that PE pupa glow in the dark under strong UV torchlight, they flouresce. Some of us have been venturing out into the woods in the dark, suitably armed. 

Ben Greenaway found 13 pupae in woods in W Sussex: 8 have now been predated, one has emerged, only four remain. 

The cooler the weather, the longer the pupal period lasts, the more get crunched and the fewer Emperors we see on the wing.     

We still don't know who or what is doing the crunching, as we don't have trail cameras up. There's some evidence to suggest that predation is largely occurring at night, in which case the likes of the yellow-necked mouse and hazel dormouse come to mind. My cat is charged with sorting this out...

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