Well, it wasn't so long after posting the previous entry, that the first wild male arrived. They are fast fliers and look very much like a butterfly in the air, but with quite an erratic flight pattern around the females. This one flew as far as 40 yards away in all directions before heading back again. It is rare to get Emperor coming to light traps so by far the best method is using lures. There is quite a good pheromone lure available now, but I prefer the traditional method of rearing the moth through its life cycle, using lured males to keep the gene pool healthy. The females are reluctant to lay eggs until they have mated, so they will hang upside down for days patiently. Once paired, egg laying happens soon after.
The caterpillars are also fun to rear through and quite easy. Just raise them in dry conditions, they are prone to fungal attack if in damp conditions. They start off black, then go orange and black and then green and black, forming a hard cocoon in which they pupate. Their preferred food is heather, but readily eat bramble in the wild. I've also used hawthorn and blackthorn and this year I will use Damson (less prickly). I keep the pupae in the garage over winter so they hatch at the right time. Sometimes the pupae over winter twice or even thrice before hatching. Males soon get active, so each morning and afternoon I remove the males from the cage to keep separate, so females are virgins and will emit pheromones for catching wild males. Here's two short videos of this afternoons action, which happened slightly early at 1.45pm. 2 short video clips, the first the male arriving, the second, the pairing up. If anyone is keen to try this for themselves, please let me know as I usually have plenty of spare caterpillars. https://youtu.be/ZfYtHxIfFbs then https://youtu.be/VnnC6_mGbJ8