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What Color is it? Photographer Captures Varied Luminescence of One of UK’s Rarest Butterflies

One of Britain’s rarest and largest butterflies will remind readers of that time a few years ago when the internet got all in a flutter over whether ‘The Dress’ was black and blue or white and gold.

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After decades of decline, the Purple Emperor is making something of a comeback in England’s woodlands.

Despite its magnificent appearance, the species, affectionately dubbed His Imperial
Majesty, is attracted to smelly cheese, human sweat, fish paste, and even dog and fox poo.

But it is the strange colors of the wings of the male—which can appear blue to some people but brown to others—which is most amazing.

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Wildlife photographer Andrew Fusek Peters has been busy snapping the same butterfly from different angles.

Andrew, who photographed the butterfly in Oversley Woods in Warwickshire, said: “They are ultra-rare, you do see photographs of them but like all British butterflies their numbers have declined catastrophically.

SWNS

“Conservation means their numbers are on the rise but they are still one of the rarest British butterflies.

“They have this unbelievable quality where if you look at them from behind they are a brown butterfly and when you go round to the front of the wing it looks purple or blue.

“This is the effect of the light on the thousands of scales that make up their wings.

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“The scales refract the light in different ways which is why you see the different colors.

“It was amazing to think I was looking at the same butterfly when it looked completely different from either side, it is really, really extraordinary.

“It was really special to be able to get so close—it was so relaxed. I had the lens four foot above the butterfly as it lay on the ground.

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“I had never seen one before in the four years I’ve been photographing butterflies,” he said.

We’re grateful Peters finally got the chance to do so—thanks to local conservation efforts bringing Purple Emperor numbers back to healthier levels.

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