Saturday 12 July 2014

Essex Skipper and a male Purple Emperor

male Essex Skipper, Thymelicus lineola
This morning I visited Houghton Forest again. As soon as I arrived I saw a grounded male Purple Emperor twenty yards from the car. It wandered around the ground for 30 minutes, sometimes flying off, but always returning shortly afterwards. It flicked open its wings occasionally and it was a challenge to grab an open wing shot, which happened about every 15 frames. Once it roosted in a tree. It was not in great condition and had a chunk of its right hind-wing missing. A second male came down at one point, but did not stay. I wandered along a path and found my first Essex Skipper of the year plus Marmalade Hoverflies and Pearl Veneer moths.
male Essex Skipper, Thymelicus lineola
Marmalade Hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus
Pearl Veneer, Agriphila straminella
Pearl Veneer, Agriphila straminella

male Purple Emperor, Apatura iris
Purple Emperor, Apatura iris
Purple Emperor, Apatura iris


  1. Lovely photos of the Purple Emperors, especially the ones of the females. Any thoughts about why the females are on the ground? Are they looking for moisture?

    Best wishes,


    1. Paul, thanks for your comment. All the texts on the subject suggest that the male comes to the ground to obtain moisture and salts. I observed a male the following day behaving in exactly the same way as the second female. They were both wandering around the hard packed gravel-soil surface of the track with stationary periods when the tip of their proboscis was in contact with the ground for periods of a minute or two before continuing their wandering. The ground appeared to be dry. Frohawk mentions that he had a female attracted by rotting meat. I imagine the female comes to the ground for the same reason as males – moisture and/or salts.


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