Boisjarzeau’s Little Emperors and Admirals

At the end of May, Freyer’s purple emperor (Apatura metis) or FPE was abundant around Lake Skadar in Montenegro as described here and then here. Close to the slow winding rivers and streams of the southern Charente, the lesser purple emperor (Apatura ilia) or LPE is king. These are the subspecies A. i. clytie, which is a bright orange colour compared with the dark nominate form, and the one most often confused with the rarer A. metis.

Below Bois Jarzeau, down the narrow lane to the rough track that runs alongside a small stream there is abundant elder (Sambucus nigra), common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) and bramble (Rubus fruticosus) below the tall ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra) and willow (Salix spp.) trees.

A kingfisher whistles and then zinks past at waist level up the stream, banded demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens) dance above the water to settle on leaves and twigs always just out of reach, and wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) run the gauntlet up and down the sunny concrete faces of the railway tunnel.

A map butterfly (Araschnia levana) rushes from the hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) to hide high in a blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). This is the dark summer colour phase; it proves wary, not hurrying to return. An LPE then glides past at head height, boldly circles the intruder (as they and FPE both do) then settles to feed on the bramble. The wings are flapped slowly and the magnetic purple irridescence flashes in the bright, morning sun. It suddenly moves on and flies up to keep an imperial watch from the high bushes. Further down the track nearer the railway, another flies up and also settles about 3 m up.  With the one seen in the nearby woodland and another along the track by the railway, that makes four LPEs within 1 km of Bois Jarzeau. I am guessing that the lines of trees that marshal the river idling through the bottom of the valley support a large population of this most handsome butterfly species.

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A lesser purple emperor high on a dogwood branch…

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and feeding on bramble berries.

The rough track runs parallel to the railway and on the south facing patch of woodland a southern white admiral (Limenitis reducta) flashes its colours as it lays its eggs on the edges of a honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) leaf.

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Southern white admiral in the morning sun on a honeysuckle leaf about 2 m off the ground.

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The brilliant underside of the southern white admiral is shown off as its lays its eggs.

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