Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) has confirmed that elusive butterfly the Purple Emperor has officially returned to Norfolk after disappearing half a century ago.
Last recorded in 1961, the Purple Emperor was declared extinct in the county in the early 1970s, but experts from BC’s Norfolk Branch have revealed the butterfly is back and could be breeding in the area.
The Purple Emperor is one of the UK’s largest butterflies with a wing-span of up to 8.4cm. The butterfly appears to have black wings intersected with white bands, however in the sunlight, the wings of the male butterfly display a brilliant purple sheen.
Nature enthusiasts across the county are being asked to look out for the butterfly throughout July and to report any sightings to Butterfly Conservation.
Volunteer for BC’s Norfolk Branch, Kiri Stuart-Clarke, said:
“The return of the Purple Emperor to Norfolk takes the total number of butterfly species found in the county to 37. We are keen to chart the Emperor’s progress, so we’d love for people to help us look for them this summer.
“The Emperor likes areas of woodland where mature oak and sallow grow together and the best time to see them is in the morning when they come down from the canopy to take minerals and salts from things like animal droppings and mud.
“Loss of habitat was the main reason for the Purple Emperor’s disappearance in Norfolk, but thanks to the support of landowners and changes to the way we manage our woodlands, we’re once again creating the type of habitat that this butterfly needs to survive.”