Poplar Admiral (Limenitis populi)

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2020 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.


22506_male_Isère_17Jul10 22650_male_Isère_18Jul10
41192_male_Isère_10Jul16 22706_male_Isère_17Jul10 12668_male_Isère_11Jul08

Forget Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)! This butterfly is the real emperor, dwarfing iris for size, if not for iridescence. Its flight is magnificent, unforgettable. I had not seen one before 2008 and then saw three within one week. I thought then that it may be years before I see one again - but I did see one in 2009 alongside a river in the Alpes, which circled me a few times but sadly did not settle, and in 2010 I saw three individuals, possibly four, in the same location as 2008.


I made the understandable mistake at that time of looking rather than concentrating on getting a good photograph. After some years of experience, I now believe I can recognise those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and ensure that I don't have such regrets in the future.

The female is even larger and very rarely seen, and I have yet to see one (but see below). The underside is just as magnificent as the upperside, being a beautiful strong orange ground colour contrasting with a pale grey-blue hindwing border. The underside shows why it is an Admiral, a member of the Limenitis genus, rather than an Emperor of the Apatura genus - compare the design with the White Admiral (L. camilla) and the Southern White Admiral (L. reducta).

I saw populi in both 2014 and 2015, a single on each occasion, not that I had a photograph opportunity. Both sightings were in the Alpes-Maritimes where records of populi were sporadic at best. In fact, the OPIE Atlas shows only nine records ever from the Alpes-Maritimes. The sighting in 2014 may well have been of a female. This possibly suggests that populi is more widespread than previously believed.

ref sex


alt. m
12654 M

at a fantastic riverside puddling place, a rather large but battered populi came down to take salts and gave a good photograph opportunity while engrossed. The next day, I revisited the site and another populi dropped down, the magnificently fresh male 12654. Again, it was difficult to approach for a photograph, disappearing as soon I got within 2m, but it did return each time (received wisdom says that it does not return to the same place if scared off, but maybe this does not apply when it's puddling), and patience was rewarded. The uph marginal markings were magnificent, much brighter than shown in T&L, especially the double blue lines. Just incredible.

22506 M

a male, with very much reduced white markings especially in the discal area of the uph. This was taking salts on the ground at a nearby camp site, where the shower and toilet block were a magnet for 22506 and several other species.

22650 M

a male, not quite as strongly marked as 12654, especially in respect of the uph orange submarginal crescents.

41192 M a male, taking salts as is nearly always the only opportunity for a photograph. This one was constantly moving around the ground, and in a strong wind, so any photograph is effectively a snap "on the go". 1120
22706 M

a male, the underside of 22650.

12668 M

a male, the underside of 12654.