Sunday, April 30, 2023

Coronation Posting...

All servants of the Purple Emperor are required to pledge allegiance to the Emperor of All Butterflies on Saturday May 6th.

We don't want a monarchy. We don't want a republic. We want an Empire and an Emperor watching over us...

 and about to launch Himself into the skies to behave appallingly badly...

PS  Very slow larval development this last week, and an indifferent weather forecast for early May. Looks like this year is not going to see an early Emperor season...    

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Late April News...

A quickie to say that despite the exceptionally wet March and a mediocre April, Emperor larvae are developing bang on time. They seem to be in exactly the same development stage throughout their range, without regional disparity (yet...).

They are feeding slowly but surely (wet foliage stops them), and are coming up to their early spring skin change. That can take ages, if conditions are wet and cool; or it can take just a couple of days if the weather's warm and dry. Next week's weather is looking promising, so they may be ok.  

Best of all, I haven't recorded any spring losses (yet). In some years, notably in 2022, quite a few larvae go missing-presumed-crunched during April. So, fingers' crossed, but things are looking promising...

Most larvae fed for quite a while during April from leaf undersides, which is unusual. Like this - 

    They've done a lot of leaf tip bud biting, like this - 

But they are now on the leaf uppersides, like this -

Most are not yet fully green. 

At this range, it looks as though the first adults nationally will emerge on Midsummer Day, but don't quote me on that. I'll give a proper prognostication in late May. 


Sunday, April 2, 2023

Fantastic News!

For the past fourteen winters I've followed the fortunes of over-wintering Purple Emperor larvae in the wild, mainly in Savernake Forest, Wilts.  More recently, I've studied larvae at an isolated site on the Lambourn Downs, W Oxon, and in my local woods, Cirencester Park Woods, where the butterfly was discovered in 2020. 

Losses, primarily to avian predation, have generally been high (in the 50% to 75% bracket mainly). Obviously, my sample sizes have varied. 

This winter I have recorded Zero Loss in Savernake, albeit out of a small sample of five, and Zero Loss in Cirencester Park Woods, out of a sample of eight. That is MEGA. This is the first time I've not recorded any losses in Savernake (from viable samples).  

I don't rightly know why, but it does seem that when Great Tit populations (in particular) are down, Emperors go up. Woodland Great Tit numbers seem to be currently low.  Also, the cold spell in early December may well have shocked various predatory invertebrates into proper hibernation.

So, if the spring is clement and if the weather is kind during the critical pupation and pupal periods 2023 could see a very good Emperor season, at least away from places in the Southeast and East of England where sallows droughted off last July and August. 

Watch this space...

Obviously, the wet March has kept larvae abed a while longer, but they are now nearly all lined up against Sallow leaf buds, waiting for them to open so that they can start to feed. One of two have jumped the gun and have bitten into loosening leaf buds, like this one (Cirencester, April 1st) -

Most of them are in this mode (this is 'Cincinnatus', from Cirencester Park Woods, on March 31st) -