Lesser purple emperor

(Apatura ilia)

A large butterfly with a wingspan between 50 and 63 mm pertaining to the Nymphalidae family. The species is bound to damp environments since it lays its eggs on willow and poppy trees.


Widespread throughout Europe and Asia, in Italy it is more common in the North/Centre.


The species has two different morphotypes. For the clytie form, the upper side of the wings are orange with dark brown areas, while for the nominal ilia form, the upper side of the wings is mainly black. In contrast with other butterflies, it is very difficult to see feeding on flowers, since it mainly feeds on dead bodies, excrement, and rotten fruit.


Present in forests along rivers with widespread willow and poplar.

Observation in the Torbiera Reserve

The species is not easy to observe because it spends much of its time in the foliage of trees. Look for it between May and October near water-loving forests, where it lives and breeds.

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