Apatura iris (Purple Eperor, Großer Schillerfalter, Le Grand Mars)
Apatura iris, also called Purple Emperor or Großer Schillerfalter is a . The first description was in 1758 by Linnaeus. The wingspan is about 6 – 8 cm. The Purple Emperor is a member of the family NYMPHALIDAE. The basic colour of this butterfly is black with white spots and bands. Furthermore the male has a blue structure-colour.
The forewings are black. At the wing-tip there are a big and a small white spot. Next to these spots there is a chain of five white spots. In the middle of the wing there is a chain of white spots which continue on hind wings as a white band. Except of the wing-tip the whole wing of the male has a blue structure-colour.
The underside of Apatura iris is colourful. The front edge is brown. The outer edge is grey and the middle of the wing is black. All white spots from the upside are also there. At the front edge there is a white spots with two short, black strips. A large, orange eye-spot with a black-blue core dominates the wing.
The hind wings of Apatura iris are black. The edge is wavy. A white band with a typical spike dominates the wing. At the inner edge there is a redish ring. At the edge there is a thin grey band. Except of the edge-region the whole wing of the male has a blue structure-colour.
The underside is grey. In the middle of the wing there is a brown area which contains the white band with the typical spike. At the inner edge there is a little, blue spot.
The body (abdomen) is black. The thorax is black. The head is black. The underside of all parts is white.
Sex differences: The female is significant bigger than the male. And it has no blue structure-colour.
The Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) is a butterfly of the Palaearctic ecozone (Europe and Asia). The area of distribution of this butterfly includes whole Europe and Asia from Arctic circle to Iran, Pakistan and China. You can see the Purple Emperor upto a height of around 1000 meters above sea level.
The flight period of the Purple Emperor is from the middle of June to August.
- Populus tremula
- Salix aurita
- Salix caprea
- Salix cinerea
The first description of this butterfly was in 1758 by Linnaeus. There are five subspecies.
- Apatura iris amurensis [Stichel, 1909]
- Apatura iris bieti [Oberthür, 1885]
- Apatura iris kansuensis [O. Bang-Haas, 1933]
- Apatura iris peninsularis [Lee & Takamura, 1981]
- Apatura iris xanthina [Oberthür, 1909]
The caterpillar is green with yellow strips and has two horns on head. The pupa has no silken girdle. This species overwinters as caterpillar.
In Europe there are two more closely-related species.
- Apatura ilia Denis & Schiffermüller 1775 (Lesser Purple Emperor)
- Apatura metis Freyer 1829 (Freyer's Purple Emperor )
Forms, varieties, generations and aberrations
There are some forms of the Purple Emperor. Probably the best known form is Apatura iris f. iole (also called Apatura iris f. jole).
- Apatura iris f. chattendeni
- Apatura iris f. deschangei
- Apatura iris f. iolata
- Apatura iris f. iole
- Apatura iris f. lugenda
- Apatura iris f. monophana
- Apatura iris f. obscura
- Apatura iris f. stictica
Here you can see the form Apatura iris f. iole.
Protection provisions / Red List
- CITES: (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora):
- EU regulation on trading with species of wild Fauna and Flora
- IUCN Red List of threatened species:
- Red List of endangered species of Austria:
- Regulation of the Viennese regional government:
-protected as imago-
Similar and closely-related species
Apatura metis Freyer 1829 (Freyer's Purple Emperor, Donauschillerfalter)
Notes for observation
The Purple Emperor is a nimble butterfly. It likes to suck on excrement or carcasses. You can observe it from the morning until the early afternoon. Because of its size and the blue structure-colour on its wings, the Purple Emperor is hard to confound. Only the Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia) is very similar. Both species can overlap in flight time and flight area.
To distinguish between these two, similar species use the following attributes:
- Difference in size.
- The spike at the white band on the hind wing of the Purple Emperor.
- The redish ring on the forewing of the Lesser Purple Emperor.
- The underside of the Lesser Purple Emperor is monotonous and significant lighter than the same parts of the Purple Emperor.
Apatura iris Linnaeus 1758
Le Grand Mars
Stor skimmerfjäril; Irisfjäril
Classification / Taxonomy / Family tree
- Kingdom: ANIMALIA
- Phylum: ARTHROPODA
- Class: INSECTA
- Order: LEPIDOPTERA
- Suborder: DITRYSIA
- Superfamily: PAPILIONOIDEA
- Family: NYMPHALIDAE
- Subfamilie: APATURINAE
- Tribe: ---
- Genus: APATURA
- Specific name: IRIS