Nailed season target

One of the definitive goals for this season was to finally find caterpillars of either the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) or the Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia). Already in December 2015 I found the first caterpillar of the Purple Emperor. In April 2016 another one (at a different location). Later on, I managed to locate even a couple more. One larva was too high so I hardly could get a decent photo with my camera. But the others were in a better height.

Unfortunately, I found no caterpillars of the Lesser Purple Emperor. This is one of the biggest targets for season 2017. Since the species flies rather close to where we live I feel optimistic to track down caterpillars already this autumn.

Apatura butterflies, they’re amazing all the way from caterpillar to butterfly. Here’s a couple shots from the caterpillars found earlier this year.

Busy days

Late June we had to pack and clean. Since we were moving end of the month there were countless things to take care off. Unfortunately, the day before moving also the Purple emperors (Apatura iris) started to hatch. The caterpillars of this beautiful species were collected earlier in spring (one was found in December).

I was able to witness two butterflies hatching, the other chrysalises I had to hand out to my friend. This way I did not need to think of butterflies in the middle of our move. One of the butterflies felt disturbed as I tried to get some photos. It started to try to fly with cold wings and caused some damage to itself (so much for getting shots of a perfect specimen). The other butterfly I allowed to develop in all peace, and I only tried getting some photos of the under side of the wings.

Caterpillar of the Purple Emperor

The two caterpillars of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) that are currently feeding on potted willow on our balcony develop nicely. On the coming weekend it’ll be time for another attempt to find caterpillars of the Purple Emperor or, even better, the Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia).

First feeding traces

The spring weather has been amazingly warm recently. As a result, within just a week nature has gotten its green dress back. Also the first leafs of Salix caprea have grown, making it finally easier to track back caterpillars. With the first leafs also the first feeding traces could be found.

Just a random check on a couple bushes and I found it: my second caterpillar of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). It felt great seeing the caterpillar happily feeding on it’s first feast after the long winter. Here’s a couple photos of the great day.

Waking up

Spring time does not only mean that butterflies start flying. It also means that caterpillars break up hibernation and continue the metamorphosis.

This winter I found a caterpillar of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). It has been a particular joy to see the caterpillar waking up to feed again. The caterpillar first rested for about 6 months on the same twig.

Here’s some photos taken immediately after the caterpillar reached fresh growth.

The First Apatura Caterpillar

For a long time I’ve wanted to raise caterpillars of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) or the Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura Ilia). Before getting that chance there was one challenge thought: Finding eggs or caterpillars.

After spending quite some time on the quest I finally found what I was after a couple days ago. A hibernating caterpillar of the Purple Emperor on Goat Willow (Salix caprea). Here’s some images on the specimen, including a photo of the growth where the larva was found (see red marking).

Early quest for the Purple Emperor

March 1st, this year spring arrived early in Finland and nearly all snow was gone already by the end of February. A sunny Saturday with +0.5 degrees Celsius sounded like a good day to kick start into the butterfly season.

Almost a month ago my dad, living in Switzerland, reported his first butterfly sighting, a Common Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni). In Finland, the waiting continues. A realistic average expectation to observe the first flight of a butterfly is probably April. However, I couldn’t hold myself back to give it a try. The first attempt to score one of the season targets was focusing on a real challenge, finding small Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) caterpillars which overwinter in the stage of larva.

Let me keep the results short: I failed. Despite of the proper preparation, including research on the web finding the right field plus cycling a total of 20 km to reach a promising spot. The major problem turned out to be scanning the surrounding and detect the right food plant. Having no leafs on trees this time of the year, my botanical skills were not sufficient to sight a goat willow (Salix caprea) at a promising location, which then may or may not host any of these tiny caterpillars.

I had to accept my defeat, and decided to give it another try when the temperature is more comfortable, or perhaps when the trees wear leafs again later in spring. It will not only be easier to detect the right bush or tree, but traces on these leafs can help finding a spot where caterpillars have been feeding.

All in all, it feels great knowing that winter has almost passed, and the entire season is ahead. Furthermore, to highlight at least one positive sake of this first caterpillar quest: I got some sports spending time on the mountain bike.

Details and information on the Purple Emperor are provided by The Purple Empire, a blog dedicated to this particular species. It contains a collection of great photography and insights into the world of this beautiful butterfly.