No other butterfly in Britain can compete with Apatura iris, or the Purple Emperor. It has enchanted butterfly lovers for centuries. Despite its size and power it is one of our most elusive insects, rarely seen because it lives in the tops of trees, disdaining flowers and descending only to feed on animal faeces and rotting carcasses. The emerging sallow scrub of the Knepp Wildland Project has provided these stunning butterflies with an important new habitat and we are now the top Purple Emperor breeding site in the UK.
Second only in size to the Swallowtail, the Emperors were first seen at Knepp in 2010. They roost in the canopy of tall oaks where the males perform elegant displays for the females and show surprising aggression, chasing away anything else that flies – including birds – from their territories. Learn about the Purple Emperor’s extraordinary life-cycle and discoveries – new to science – that have been made by ecologists observing the butterflies at Knepp. We can take you high into the oak canopy on our tree platforms for a butterfly-eye view and teach you a few tricks of the lepidopterist’s trade on how to attract them – like Vietnamese fish paste! The season is mid-July. Half-way through our safari we’ll stop for a picnic lunch featuring delicious seasonal produce, all organic or locally-sourced, in a beautiful spot in the heart of the Wildland.
Walking will be at a gentle pace for about 2 hours in the morning and about 1 ½ hours after lunch, with frequent stops for Emperor spotting. You’ll need a moderate level of fitness and be able to cope with walking on uneven ground.
Matthew Oates works for the National Trust and is the UK's leading expert in purple emperors. Neil Hulme is a passionate butterfly enthusiast, best known for his conservation work on the endangered Duke of Burgundy.
Throughout the Purple Emperor season we also provide car parking and maps of purple emperor hotspots for those who would like to spot the butterflies on their own. Please click here for more details on the Purple Emperor Car Park
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Unfortunately we cannot offer a refund or alternative date for your safari booking. We also cannot guarantee the great British weather, or that you will see your target species. Nature is unpredictable! However we’re confident you’ll enjoy your experience with us, come rain or shine, and there’s always plenty of wildlife to see. Our safaris are suitable only for children of 12 and over