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Where to find Purple Emperor butterflies

The mecca for seeing the largest of our breeding butterflies in the East Midlands, if not the whole of Britain, is in Fermyn Woods, part of the Rockingham Forest.

The Purple Emperor photo below was taken in Fermyn Woods, East Northants, capturing the purple sheen on one of the wings. Not a bad shot, if I say so myself, even though captured using an iPad mini.

black and purple butterfly

Purple Emperor photographed on 10th July 2015

The best time to see Purple Emperor butterflies seems to be the first half of July, when the weather is warm and sunny, preferably in the mornings.

How to spot a Purple Emperor butterfly

When you finally see one, it’s usually on the ground feeding. This is because once they’ve hatched the butterfly needs to take on minerals before ascending to the tops of the trees to breed.

From observation the Purple Emperor feeds on minerals rather than flowers, which is why they’re often spotted on the woodland roadway.

Finding a Purple Emperor at this time of year is quite easy, because although relatively small in comparison to the surroundings there’s dozens of people out looking for them.

Spot the group of photographers with long lenses on their cameras, looking intently at the ground and wander up quietly. Just be careful not to make any suggestion you are just an amateur on the job, by bringing out your iPad to take a picture! (I kept mine well hidden until there was no-one around).

group of people looking at butterfly on the ground

BB and The Purple Emperor butterfly

Denys Watkins-Pitchford, known as BB, was a famous author and naturalist who lived in Sudborough for many years. He had a particular love of Purple Emperor butterflies and bred them from eggs he collected in Oxfordshire, releasing the resultant butterflies into Fermyn Woods. The current population of these beautiful butterflies could be argued to be the result of those released over many years. Others might argue that they were just not as well observed before.

Have you been to Fermyn Woods? Have you seen a Purple Emperor butterfly? Leave a comment below if you have, we’d love to hear your story.

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