Purple Emperor Apatura iris


The Purple Emperor is a very localised butterfly, well established in areas such as Northamptonshire to the south of the East Midlands area, and it appears to be moving gradually northwards through our region. It has been recorded in small numbers in Nottinghamshire and in Rutland since 2015. It is found in large mature broadleaved forests with sunny rides which support good growths of sallow, the caterpillar's food plant. It spends much of its time high in the canopy of large trees, but males are often most conspicuous during the early part of the flight period when they commonly descend to feed from damp puddles or animal dung.


The Purple Emperor is a much prized butterfly because of the rich iridescent purple sheen on the upper wings of the male. The amount of purple varies depending on lighting. Females lack the iridescence and appear as large dark butterflies with white bands across the upper wings, but the undersides of both sexes are similar. Purple Emperors have a powerful gliding flight, similar to White Admirals with which they can be confused.

Flight times

The flight period is from late June to the end of August.

Food plants

Eggs are laid singly on the upper edge of sallow leaves or occasionally Crack-willow.

Purple Emperor
Purple Emperor - © Christine Maughan

Distribution Maps

Purple Emperor distribution map 2015-19
Purple Emperor distribution map 2005-19

There were no records at all during the first five years of this comparison. The Purple Emperor is, however, making progress northwards through the region, now being recorded in Nottinghamshire and more widely in Leicestershire. As yet there are no records for Derbyshire.

Purple Emperor distribution map 2015
2015 Summary
No of tetrads 1
First sighting 15/07/2015
Last sighting 25/07/2015
Purple Emperor distribution map 2016
2016 Summary
No of tetrads 3
First sighting 14/07/2016
Last sighting 12/08/2016
Purple Emperor distribution map 2017
2017 Summary
No of tetrads 4
First sighting 24/06/2017
Last sighting 17/07/2017
Purple Emperor distribution map 2018
2018 Summary
No of tetrads 6
First sighting 27/06/2018
Last sighting 01/08/2018
Purple Emperor distribution map 2019
2019 Summary
No of tetrads 8
First sighting 05/07/2019
Last sighting 03/08/2019
Purple Emperor distribution map 2020
2020 Summary
No of tetrads 8
First sighting 24/06/2020
Last sighting 26/07/2020
Purple Emperor distribution map 2021
2021 Summary
No of tetrads 22
First sighting 03/06/2021
Last sighting 05/08/2021
Purple Emperor distribution map 2022
2022 Summary
No of tetrads 20
First sighting 29/06/2022
Last sighting 27/07/2022

Photo Gallery