Poplar Admiral

Limenitis populi


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Male, Switzerland, May 2011

Limenitis populi

Male, Switzerland, June 2015

Limenitis populi

Male, Switzerland, June 2015

Limenitis populi

Male, Switzerland, June 2015

Limenitis populi

Male, with white admirals, Switzerland, June 2015

Limenitis populi

Male, with white admirals, Switzerland, June 2015

Limenitis populi

Male, Switzerland, June 2015

Male, Switzerland, May 2011



Male, Switzerland, May 2011

Male, Switzerland, May 2011



Male, Switzerland, May 2011



Male, Switzerland, May 2011

Limenitis populi female

Female, Switzerland, June 2014


Female, Switzerland, July 2006

Limenitis populi distribution

Distribution

The poplar admiral is a magnificent - and in most of Europe, rare - butterfly. The female especially is huge, though even the male is substantially bigger than a purple emperor, and both sexes have a flight so powerful they can be up in the canopy and across the glade before you can whisper their name. This is essentially an insect of forests, though I havetwice seen it hilltopping above the treeline. It is also strangely elusive. I have mostly come across individuals by chance, and the one year (2015) when I saw 12 or more on the same day in a set of woodland rides near Geneva remains to date (2020) the last year I saw them at all, despite many subsequent searches in the same rides. I see males more than females, perhaps because males more readily come to dung and minerals along tracks.

Males are a deep brown above with orange and blue trimmings around the edges of the wings and varying amounts of white in the form of spots and bands. Typically, there is a tapering band on the hindwing, a large spot at the end of the cell on the forewing and two irregular rows of spots outside this. However, some or all of these white marks may be missing. The darkest individuals are known as form tremulae but any amount of white between the two extremes is possible. Females are similar but bigger and with stronger white markings. The band on the hindwing is broader. Both sexes are orange beneath with a pattern similar to that of the much commoner white admiral.

The foodplant is aspen. In Switzerland, adults are on the wing from the end of May, though individuals are short-lived and if they emerge together the season may be short. I have seen them in July in the mountains. Caterpillars are said to make leaf extensions, rather like white admirals, and also like them hibernate on branches or twigs in hibernaculae.