Apatura ilia (Lesser Purple Emperor, Kleiner Schillerfalter, Le Petit Mars)

Apatura ilia, also called Lesser Purple Emperor or Kleiner Schillerfalter is a great butterfly from Palaearctic ecozone (Europe). The first description was in 1775 by Denis & Schiffermüller. With a wingspan of 5.0 – 6.0 cm the Lesser Purple Emperor is a small member of the family NYMPHALIDAE. The butterfly is black with white spots. Furthermore the male has a blue iridescence. This blue is caused by an optical phenomenon, named interference.


Photos for easy identification

Photo © by Norbert Ulmann (noulma@hotmail.com)

These are nice photos of Apatura ilia (Lesser Purple Emperor, Kleiner Schillerfalter, Le Petit Mars). Apatura ilia is a member of the family NYMPHALIDAE from Palaearctic (Europe).


Photo © by Thomas Neubauer; 07.08.2007 Vienna
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Rudolf Faustmann
Photo © by Rudolf Faustmann
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer; 17.08.2006, Palace garden of Laxenburg

Here you can see a female of Apatura ilia f. clythie (called "Rotschiller").


Description

The forewings are dark brown or black. On the wing leading edge there are two groups of white spots. There are three white spots and one auburn ring in the middle of wing. There is a blue iridescence on hole wing.
The underside is light brown. All white spots from upside are there. Nearby the body and on the wing leading edge there are two couples of black points. There is a big orange eye with black core in the middle of wing. At the margin there is a chain of grey spots.

The hind wings are dark brown or black. The margin is ridged. There is a long white band in the middle of wing. In back there is a auburn ring. There is a blue iridescence on hole wing.
The underside is light brown or grey. In back there is a blue spot.

The body is grey but the upside is black.

Sex differences: The female is brownish and has no blue iridescence.


Distribution

The Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia) is a fascinating butterfly of the Palaearctic ecozone (Europe and Asia) without the North of Africa. The distribution include whole Europe and Asia from Arctic circle to Iran, Pakistan and China. You can see the Lesser Purple Emperor until 600 m sea level.


This world map shows the ecozones in which this butterfly is distributed.

Flight period

The flight period of the Lesser Purple Emperor is from June to July.


Larval food

Trembling poplar, Poplar, Aspen, Willow


General information

The first description of this butterfly was in 1775 by Denis & Schiffermüller. There are many subspecies.

The caterpillar is green with yellow strips and has two horns on head. The pupa has no silken girdl. This species overwinters as caterpillar.
Some of this butterflies has no white on wings. The white is replaced by red and orange. This form named clythie. It is very similar to the Freyer's Purple Emperor.

The distribution of Lesser Purple Emperor overlap with the distributions of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) and the Freyer's Purple Emperor (Apatura metis).
The following differentiators are very useful to differ these similar species.

Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer; macro photograph of Apatura ilia here (upside)
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer; macro photograph of Apatura ilia here (upside)

Here you can see Apatura ilia here from China. It has a very broad white band on hind wings.


Photo © by Mario Maier (Mario.Maier@butterflies.de)

Here you can see Apatura ilia f. clythie.

Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer
Photo © by Thomas Neubauer

Here you can see an aberration of Apatura ilia. The left hind wing is light-blue. The right hind wing is normal.


Protection provisions / Red List

Similar and closely-related species

Apatura iris [Linnaeus, 1758] (Purple Emperor, Großer Schillerfalter, Le Grand Mars)

Apatura metis [Freyer, 1829] (Freyer's Purple Emperor, Donauschillerfalter)


Scientific name

Apatura ilia Denis & Schiffermüller 1775


Synonym

 Lesser Purple Emperor
 Kleiner Schillerfalter
 Le Petit Mars changeant
 Tornasolada chica
 Liten Skimmerfjäril
Kleine weerschijnvlinder
Ojeplet-iris
 Mieniak strużnik
Dúhovec menší


Classification / Taxonomy / Family tree

To the family tree (Genus: APATURA)...


Ecozone

PALAEARCTIC (Europe)

 

To the top

Back to family Nymphalidae from PALAEARCTIC (EUROPE)

 

Apatura iris
Inachis io
Nymphalis antiopa
Apatura iris
Vanessa atalanta
Papilio machaon
Pierides sp.
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