Thursday, March 29, 2012

Can We Fix It…Yes You Bloody Well Can!

I captured the attached picture from the intro to a feature length “Bob the Builder” episode (Race to the Finish) that my 3 year old son was watching earlier today. Although it is lovely to see the early introduction of his highness to today’s younger generation, surely it would have been much more educational (and appropriate) to have opened this toddlers film with his highness resting on some of his more natural haunts…such as a steaming pile of dung, or a rotting corpse!

How can we possibly expect the youngsters of today, to learn about the finer things in life, if the directors/animators of toddler programs (such as “Bob, the Builder”) continue to get the essential facts in life (such as this) completely wrong? Simply unacceptable…

Sleepers Awake!

Is the title of one of The Incredible String Band's less successful compositions...

All my captive larvae are also out of hibernation, but stuck in the equivalent on an airport departure lounge - waiting for buds to unfurl. The breeding tree they're on is a late-leafer.

I'm going to post some optimistic news on the prospects for the 2012 iris season soon...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Larvae also moving in Bucks

Last Summer I collected a number of iris eggs from a wood in North Bucks. Of the ten larvae that entered hibernation at least eight have survived the winter. There may be more but even in a couple of modest sized sleeves it's amazing how difficult it is to locate them.

At least three are now actively feeding. The cat in the first photo was busy eating while I was setting up the shot. The second photo shows a pair of larvae that have clearly been eating the Sallow shoots.

Just to show that iris does not have a monopoly on being hard to see the final photo is a White Admiral I am also rearing. Seen in profile it's fairly easy to see. However when viewed against the Honeysuckle stem the larvae is almost impossible to see.

Given Matthew's rather pessimistic assessment of the prospects for the coming season hopefully all of these larvae will make it to release back into the same wood that they came from.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Aurelian awakes!

This is Guy from Switzerland. Some of you might remember I am keeping an eye on a wild purple emperor caterpillar called Aurelian, whose egg was laid in my local woods last August. In November he hibernated on a joint in a sallow twig and last Wednesday, 21st March, he was still poised over it.

Since then he has woken up and moved to the end of his twig, next to a bud which appears to show signs of having been nibbled. His tree, in a shady hollow, has no leaves yet but elsewhere in sunny parts of the woods there are signs of buds bursting.

(26th March)
(26th March)
(20th February, showing part of the distance he wandered this week)

Aurelian is about seven-and-a-half months old, though still barely a centimetre long from horns to tail. He has made it through a particularly cold winter and just has to survive another week or two of vulnerability before his home becomes a leafy grove again.


Thursday, March 22, 2012


Being very hi tech, I've set up a Purple Emperor stream on Hootsuite on Twitter. This brings to my attention a load of gibberish but has, usefully, reminded me that there is a Purple Emperor pub at Burgoyne Hatch in Harlow, and has announced that Reebok have brought out a 'women's pump aerobic lite mid classic sneaker' called Purple Emperor. Presumably, when sweaty, or better, the 'women's pump aerobic lite mid classic sneaker' will prove highly attractive to His Imperial Majesty in season... Will some of our lady followers kindly investigate: a shopping trip beckons... .

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fermyn Woods Wind Farm Decision

Contrary to widespread expectation the Planning Inspectorate has given the go-ahead for four 125m wind turbines to be erected in the hill top field between Fermyn Wood and Lady Wood, Brigstock. The development will not adversely affect His Imperial Majesty, and may even be beneficial as there are proposals to thicken up the hedge linking the two woods - which could facilitate adult movement between the woods. However, it is likely to be considered grossly intrusive by many of the 2000 or so naturalists who visit the woods during the Purple season, and would be bang in the middle of Denys Watkins-Pitchford's ('BB') heartland. I gave evidence against the proposal at the public inquiry last November, arguing that this is an important natural history and literary landscape with immense spirit of place that would be seriously damaged should the proposal go ahead.

Many local people and conservation bodies are incensed by this decision, including the National Trust whose Lyveden New Bield property is close by. One option the objectors have is to take the decision to judicial review.

I am unable to express my true feelings about this decision here, they are unprintable...

Friday, March 9, 2012

His Majesty's Appearances?

Following Derek's recent "Rearing Larvae in 1755" post (05.03.12), I thought it would be a good time to put out a message that I've meaning to post for a while. I'm extremely interested in making an (ideally collective) database of literature/publication references of his/her majesty's appearances. Although there are probably hundreds (if not thousands) that I have not as yet listed, I have limited my searches to those which are specific to iris and have not therefore listed those in which his (or her) majesty is merely mentioned. I have also only listed those which are in English. Although the below list is probably a good starting point, I would very much appreciate the input of years of iris research from the empire collective in order to make the list as comprehensive as possible. Consequently if you are aware of any missed references (and I apologise in advance if I have missed any of your own personal material) please can you add it as a comment to this post. The list I have complied to date, comprises of the following material:

Albert Brydges Farn “Life-History of Apatura iris”, Vol.14 (1881) pp195-198.
W.J.V. Vandenbergh “Apatura iris at Brentwood”, Vol.15 (1882) pp187.
H.T. Hutchinson “Apatura iris in Sussex”, Vol.15 (1882) pp188.
J. Anderson “Singular Habit of Apatura iris”, Vol.15 (1882) pp188.
C.H. Watson “A Second Brood of Apatura iris”, Vol.27 (1894) pp61-62.
W.B. Polmar “Apatura iris Reared on Willow”, Vol.36 (1903) pp217.
E. Goodwin “A Second Brood of Apatura iris”, Vol.45 (1912) pp79.
E. Goodwin “Late Emergence of Apatura iris”, Vol.45 (1912) pp326.
H.R. Brown “Tobacco Smoke, An Attraction to Apaturids”, Vol.49 (1916) pp39.
Alfred Lloyd “Apatura iris in West Sussex”, Vol.50 (1917) pp208.
F.G.S. Bramwell “Apatura iris at Sea Near Brighton”, Vol.52 (1919) pp257.
F.W. Frohawk “Empty Eggs of Apatura iris”, Vol.62 (1929) pp112.
Charles Mellows “Apatura iris in Northants”, Vol.62 (1929) pp176.
F.W. Frohawk “The Egg-Laying of Apatura iris”, Vol.62 (1929) pp195.
Charles Nicholson “Larva of Apatura iris Feeding on Heather!”, Vol.66 (1933) pp76-78.
C. Nicholson “Apatura iris Visiting Great Knapweed”, Vol.66 (1933) pp111.
C.N. Hughes “Apatura iris in Cornwall”, Vol.66 (1933) pp139.
C. Nicholson “Apatura iris in Cornwall?”, Vol.66 (1933) pp173.
Harold Smith “Apatura iris in Reading District”, Vol.66 (1933) pp203.
N.D. Riley “Second-Brood Apatura iris”, Vol.67 (1934) pp40.
J. Deal “Apatura iris in Dorking District”, Vol.67 (1934) pp205.
P.A. Carden “Apatura iris Feeding on Wild Damson”, Vol.67 (1934) pp234.
C. Nicholson “Rearing Apatura iris”, Vol.67 (1934) pp234.
Arthur Jones “Rearing Apatura iris”, Vol.67 (1934) pp257.
B.H. Cooke “Apatura iris Attracted by Petrol Fumes”, Vol.68 (1935) pp212.
Ed “Apatura iris in Surrey”, Vol.69 (1936) pp174.
J. Shepherd “November Emergence of Apatura iris”, Vol.70 (1937) pp43.
C.G.M. de Worms “Early Emergence of Apatura iris”, Vol.70 (1937) pp185-186.
George E Hyde “Early Emergence of Apatura iris”, Vol.70 (1937) pp231.
Stanley Morris “The Life Story of Apatura iris”, Vol.71 (1938) pp49-52/87-90/111-113/129-132/156-160.
E. Harrison “Earwigs Destroy Larvae”, Vol.72 (1939) pp266-267.
F.L. Bacon “Apatura iris in Berks”, Vol.74 (1941) pp5.
B. Harold Smith “Apatura iris Near Farnham, Surrey”, Vol.74 (1941) pp202.
C.G.M. de Worms “A Note on the Breeding of Apatura iris”, Vol.74 (1941) pp210.
Alban F.L. Bacon “Apatura iris in N. Hampshire”, Vol.75 (1942) pp178.
G.B. Oliver “Apatura iris V. iole”, Vol.76 (1943) pp16.
I.R.P. Heslop “Maculinea arion and Apatura iris in Somerset”, Vol.83 (1950) pp20-21.
Jack T. Friedlein “Collias crocea and Apatura iris”, Vol.84 (1951) pp236-237.
I.R.P. Heslop “Apatura iris Settling on Roses”, Vol. 89 (1956) pp151.
I.R.P. Heslop “Pupa of Apatura iris Attacked by Larva of Cosmia trapezina”, Vol.89 (1956) pp166.
I.R.P. Heslop “Hibernating Habit of Larva of Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.90 (1957) pp42-43.
I.R.P. Heslop “The 1956 Season in its Relation to Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.90 (1957) pp186-188.
H.C. Dunk “Egg of Apatura iris on Wild Rose”, Vol.90 (1957) pp268.
I.R.P. Heslop “Notes on the Imaginal Size and Certain Other Features of Apatura iris Linnaeus (Lep. Nymphalidae)”, Vol.93 (1960) pp49-53.
I.R.P. Heslop “A New Male Aberration of Apaturs iris (Linnaeus) (Lep Nymphalidae)”, Vol.93 (1960) pp251-253.
M.J. Friend “Apatura iris L. (Lep., Nymphalidae) From Hampshire”, Vol.94 (1961) pp201.
A.M. Emmet “A Note on Apatura iris (Lep., Nymphalidae)”, Vol.95 (1962) pp46.
I.R.P. Heslop “Late Appearance of Apatura iris Linnaeus (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae)”, Vol.96 (1963) pp49.
I.R.P. Heslop “Apatura iris L. (Lep., Nymphalidae) in the New Forest”, Vol.97 (1964) pp51.
I.R.P. Heslop “The Purple Emperor Season of 1967”, Vol.101 (1968) pp94.

Entomologist’s Gazette:
C.G.M. de Worms “The Purple Emperor: Some Reminiscences During the Past Twenty Years”, Vol.5 (1954) pp214-218.
I.R.P. Heslop “The Breeding Log of an Apatura irs in 1954”, Vol.6 (1955) pp69-85.
I.R.P. Heslop “Apatura iris Imago Attacked by Birds”, Vol.6 (1955) pp175-177.
R.F. Aiken “A Limited Note on the Egg, Larva and Local Distribution of Apatura iris (Linn.) (Lep. Nymphalidae)”, Vol.6 (1955) pp215-216.
I.R.P. Heslop “Deus Ex Machina”, Vol.7 (1956) pp39-40.
I.R.P. Heslop “Times of Flight of Apatura iris (L.) (Lep: Nymphalidae)”, Vol.8 (1956) pp226-231.
I.R.P. Heslop “The Emergence of an Apatura iris Linnaeus”, Vol.11 (1960) pp116-117.
I.R.P. Heslop “Some Notes on the Ecological Consequences of Virus Disease in Apatura iris Linnaeus and Other Species”, Vol.12 (1961) pp42-45.
I.R.P. Heslop “Some Further Considerations of Times and Season of the Purple Emperor”, Vol.12 (1961) pp58-64.
J.A. Naylor “Are Purple Emperors, Apatura iris (Linnaeus), Attracted to Petrol Fumes?”, Vol.27 (1976) pp261.
M.G. Pennington “A Sighting of Apatura iris (Linnaeus) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Central Spain”, Vol.49 (1998) pp244.

Entomologist Record and Journal of Variation:
G.M. Hewett “Iris”, Vol.6 (1895) pp145-147.
A. Russell “Change of Colour in Pupa of Apatura iris Just Before Emergence”, Vol.12 (1900) pp294.
P.A.H. Muschamp “On The Hibernation of Apatura iris and A. ilia”, Vol.19 (1907) pp145.
? “Apatura iris on Aspen”, Vol.30 (1918) pp140.
A.J. Wightman “Larval Habitats of Apatura iris”, Vol.53 (1941) pp7-8.
F.W. Byers “Second Brood of Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.64 (1952) pp347.
Ed “Second Brood of Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.65 (1953) pp54.
H. Symes “Notes on the Larvae of Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.66 (1954) pp40-43.
F.C. Woodforde “Taking Apatura iris L. By Hand”, Vol.66 (1954) pp88.
George E Hyde “A Further Note on Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.66 (1954) pp98-100.
C.M.R. Pitman “A Note on Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.66 (1954) pp118-119.
H.C. Dunk “Observations on the Early Stages of Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.66 (1954) pp135-137.
P.A.H. Meschamp “Procrypsis of Larva of Apatura iris L”, Vol.66 (1954) pp174.
F.V.L. Jarvis “Larval Diapause in Apatura iris (Linn)”, Vol.66 (1954) pp212-217, 234-240.
C.M.R. Pitman “On Taking Apatura iris L. With Some Mention of Acronicta alni L.”, Vol.71 (1959) pp101-106.
M.H. Edmonds “A Second Brood Imago of Apatura iris L.”, Vol.71 (1959) pp296.
I.R.P. Heslop “Some Notes on the Egg-Laying and Certain Other Habits of Apatura iris Linnaeus”, Vol.72 (1960) pp25-30.
M.H. Edmonds “A Second Brood Imago of Apatura iris L.”, Vol.72 (1960) pp35
I.R.P. Heslop “Further Notes on Earlier Stages of the Purple Emperor”, Vol.72 (1960) pp82-91, 126-129.
A.E. Collier “Apatura iris Linn. And it’s Habits in Surrey”, Vol.72 (1960) pp165-166
I.R.P. Heslop “Considerations of Foodplants and the Size of Leaf in the Breeding of Purple Emperor, with other Observations”, Vol.72 (1960) pp224-229.
R.E. Stockley & I.R.P. Heslop “Some Supplementary Notes on the Life History and Breeding of Apatura iris Linn.”, Vol.72 (1960) pp257-260.
I.R.P. Heslop “Two New Aberrations of Apatura iris Linnaeus”, Vol.73 (1961) pp58-59.
I.R.P. Heslop & R.E. Stockley “Aspects of Variation in Apaturs iris Linn., with the Description of One New Aberration”, Vol.73 (1961) pp73-80.
C.G. Lipscomb “Apatura iris Return of the Prodigal Son”, Vol.81 (1969) pp189-190.
C.G. Lipscomb “The Habits of Apatura iris L. The Purple Emperor”, Vol.82 (1970) pp159-160.
J.N. Marcon “The Penchant of Apatura iris L.”, Vol.82 (1970) pp243.
M. Blackmore “The Habits of Apatura iris L.”, Vol.82 (1970) pp244.
A.D.R. Brown “Review of Butterflies in the Bristol Area: Apatura iris Linn”, Vol.83 (1971) pp214-215.
G. Garton “Apatura iris L. In Surrey”, Vol.83 (1971) pp309.
J.A.C. Greenwood “Apatura iris L. In Surrey”, Vol.83 (1971) pp358-359.
J.A.C. Greenwood “Apatura iris L. In Surrey”, Vol.84 (1972) pp266.
C.J. Luckens “Successful Hibernation of Second Instar Larva of Apatura iris L.”, Vol.88 (1976) pp26.
C.J. Luckens “Apatura iris L. A Second Brood Specimen”, Vol. 89 (1977), pp2.
H.G. Short “The Overwintering of the larva of Apatura iris L”, Vol.89 (1977) pp62-63.
D.W.H. Ffennell “The Status of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris Linn) In the Isle of Wight”, Vol. 89 (1977), pp341-342.
J.E. Green “Two Close Encounters with Apatura iris L.”, Vol.91 (1979) pp195-196.
A.J. Showler “Observations on Apatura iris L.” Vol. 92 (1980), pp24.
J.G. Coutsis “A New Locality Record For Apatura iris Linnaeus (Lep.: Nymphalidae) From Greece”, Vol. 96 (1984), pp69-70.
R.E. Smith “Notes on Breeding the Purple Emperor, Apatura iris Linn., in Captivity”, Vol. 101 (1989), pp27-33.
I.C. Beavis “Recent Records of the Purple Emperor (Apaturs iris Linn.) From the Tunbridge Wells, Kent Area”, Vol. 104 (1992), pp327-328.
N. McMillan “In Search of The Purple Emperor and Lulworth Skipper”, Vol.105 (1993), pp193-195.
Dennis Dell “Experiences From Breeding Apatura iris (L.) Nymphalidae in Switzerland from 1982-2002”, Vol.116 (2004), pp179-187.
R.J.C. Page “Perching and Patrolling Continuum at Favoured Hilltop Sites on a Ridge: A Mate location Strategy by the Purple Emperor Butterfly Apatura iris”, Vol. 122 (2010) pp61-70.

Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine:
J. Hellins “Notes on the Larva of Apatura iris”, Vol.4 (1867) pp85-87.
W. Buckler “Supplementary Notes on the Larva of Apatura iris”, Vol.13 (1876) pp3-6.
N.W. Fowler “Apatura iris in the Reading District”, Vol.56 (1920) pp63-64.
Alban F.L. Bacon “Apatura iris (L.) and Colias croceus (Fourc.) (Lep.) in Northants”, Vol.76 (1940) pp217.
J. Sankey “Is Apatura iris L. (Lep., Nymphalidae) Extending its Range?”, Vol.80 (1944) pp213.

Miscellaneous :
Pallas (1837) “Observations on the Habits of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)”, Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London, Vol.2, pp136-140.
George. E. Hyde (1960) “The Purple Emperor Butterfly”, The New Scientist, Vol.8 (193) pp295-297.
Heslop, Hyde, Stockley (1964) “Notes and Views of the Purple Emperor”.
Dell (2005) “Climate Change and the Effect of Increasing Spring Temperatures on Emergence Dates of the Butterfly Apatura iris (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)”, European Journal of Entomology, Vol.102, pp161-167.
Pantelic, Curcic, Savic-Servic, Korac, Kovacevic, Curcic, Bokic (2011) “High Angular and Spectral Selectivity of Purple Emperor (Lepidoptera: Apatura iris and A. ilia) Butterfly Wings”, Optics Express, Vol.19(7), pp. 5817-5826.

For those interested, although the below biodiversity link has been useful in finding references:

The sources found by this site are still based on rather a mediocre OCR and will still not find "Purple" or "Emperor" based material. These specific references can of course be found independently, but it requires the manual downloading of each of the volume pdf's and subsequent searching for the specified entry. Consequently manual searching through the Cambridge UL library resources has been mandatory in order to find many of the entries, but still these searches have been restricted to indexed volumes, which again unfortunately often do not list familiar as well as scientific names (of which Heslop was one of the worst for this!). As a consequence of all these factors, I suspect that many important references may have been missed (even from the searched volumes), and as such, any input that the empire bloggers would please be able to provide in relation to this iris resource database, I feel would be invaluable.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Doings at Porton Down

The following curious tale has belatedly come to light...

Apatura iris was discovered at the MOD's Porton Down, on the Hampshire / Wiltshire border, during a BC Dorset branch field meeting there on Sat 9th July 1995 - when a pair was found, in full copula, wings closed, on the excursion mini bus's front tyre!

Porton is arguably the best butterfly site in the UK (depending on how one interprets the term 'site'), consisting of 7000 acres of chalk downland and areas of plantation or older woodland. Sallows, however, are rather scarce (if my memory serves me well), though on my last visit there, in late May 2010, I felt that the place should just about be Purple, particularly .

But why a mating pair on a minibus front tyre? They normally mate high in trees (for 3 hrs 45 mins). There is one record from the 1990s of a mating pair being found low down on a very windy day, having presumably been blown out of the tree tops (Ashtead Common, Surrey). 9/7/1995 was cloudless and hot, and seemingly with a moderate - fresh NE wind.

They might have been blown out of the tree tops, or perhaps they had been flushed out of the canopy by a bird, or by another amorous male (or two) trying to muscle in (as happens with iris)? Or perhaps the female had spiralled down in classic Willmottian rejection mode, only to change her mind (the minx) and terminate her virginity? Or perhaps the male, in classic Hulmeian mode, was determined to thrust himself upon her irrespective, and duly had his way? Other theories are welcome.

Meanwhile, I spent that day in search of High Brown Fritillary in the Forest (and indeed, I may have seen a female there, flying through Shatterford Bottom car park - if not, then the last genuine New Forest adippe was a female seen by me at Matley Passage on 30th June 1992). In keeping with the entomological tradition in the Forest for hot July days, I stripped off and bathed sublimely in the cool of a deep gravel-bottomed pool along some stream way off any beaten track - only for a posse of French schoolgirls to appear from nowhere on mountain bikes, and Ooh La La me terribly from amongst the bracken fronds. What happened next cannot be revealed on this website, but it was Awesome.

This rather begs the question of what else was happening in the Purple Empire that day? (It wasn't a good Emperor year, though 1994 was).

I am grateful to Colin Nunn of BC Dorset (and formerly of Christ's Hospital school - another Purple Old Blue) for details and photo.