Purple Emperor butterflies success at Bradenham

Purple emperor butterfly

One of Britain's most elusive butterflies has been spotted for the first time at National Trust’s Bradenham estate near West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

Purple Emperors are Britain's second largest butterfly, with a wingspan of over 8cm.

Notoriously enigmatic, Purple Emperors spend much of the time flying around the tree tops. They feed on rotting animal flesh and animal faeces. Fans of the butterfly have gone to gruesome lengths to attract the insect, including putting out rotten squid slices and banana skins.

Purple Emperor (female)
Purple Emperor (female)
Purple Emperor (female)

Caring for the habitat

Our specialist volunteer on butterflies, Matthew Oates has spent almost 50 years chasing Purple Emperors around the country.

"Bradenham used to be clogged with conifers, but over the last quarter century we've cut back lots of the non-native trees and restored the chalk grassland. It has had an incredible effect on the butterflies."

Mr Oates added: "The Purple emperors seem to be one of the few species that are on the up. They are probably benefiting from changes in commercial forestry and more awareness of the species from rangers."

The butterflies, which government are of 'conservation concern', are mostly found in the south of England - but now seem to be moving north. Let us know if you see one at Bradenham.

Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus

Bradenham Butterfly Trail

This is a short trail that can be walked at any time of the year, but to see butterflies it is at its best on a warm, dry day, without strong winds at any time between April and September. You are most likely to see the greatest variety of species between May and August.