Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa)

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2023 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

18151_female_Isère_12Jul09 37251_sex?_Alpes-de-Haute-Provence_12May15 05_27-29_male?_Hautes-Pyrénées_27Jul05 40194_male?_Var_20Apr16
46123_male_Var_27Jun19 05_26-03_male?_Hautes-Pyrénées_27Jul05    

An amazing butterfly. It is very large and glides majestically, settling only occasionally, and flying powerfully with a very fast wing-beat. In 2004 I saw the first antiopa for definite as there had been occasions in the past where I was sure it was antiopa gliding high overhead. I have read that they are only encountered in very small numbers, usually singly, but I saw two near Biot on 6 April 2005 and then several near Fréjus on 7 April.


It has been suggested (by Guy Padfield) that they may hibernate in communal areas and then disperse in the spring. Since then, I have seen antiopa on many occasions, but nearly always awakening hibernators in the Oak forests near the south coast of France, often in the same locations every year.

My experience over the last few years is that hibernators tend to stay in their overwintering localities for at least two weeks. I have heard it suggested that antiopa needs to overwinter at very low temperatures in order to remain sufficiently torpid, but that has not been my experience.

However, I have not seen second generation antiopa in the southern forests, so I am nonplussed as to where the hibernators go after they awaken or indeed if they do produce a second generation that immediately heads northward for cooler climes and higher altitudes.

A superb video of the life-cycle of antiopa has been produced by Filming VarWild and can be viewed on YouTube here:

ref sex


alt. m
18151 F

a female, presumably taking moisture from the ground, as it was in the company of numerous males of many different species which were puddling, i.e. taking the salts, an activity unique to males. The body shape is clearly of a female and it is the first time I can say I have seen a female for sure. The borders are exceptionally wide (is this normal for a female?) and not as yellow as one would expect (contrast with 05_27-29) and the "tails" are very pronounced and quite rounded. So different to any other antiopa I have seen, but it was on the ground for some time, allowing a unique opportunity to enjoy its magnificence.

37251 ? possibly a male, having overwintered with the resultant damage to the wing edges. 800
05_27-29 M?

a male, I believe, as it is taking salts in the underside photograph. These two photographs are of the same individual, a second generation (I assume) with perfect bright yellow fringes. It was slightly sluggish on an overcast day and allowed me to get quite close for a photograph or two and eventually decided to take the salts from my hand.

40194 M? I suspect this is a male, based on body shape. This was one of two gliding up and down a track through a wooded area, following their emergence from hibernation. It is in a slightly better condition than many that I see in early spring. 220
46123 M a freshly-emerged male, which alighted at a watering hole and briefly opened its wings before moving to the damp edge of the watering hole to take salts from the ground. It had its wings closed for nearly all of the time and only opened them slightly as can be seen from this photo. Then it left. So near yet so far.... It was still a privilege to witness it. 680
05_26-03 M?

the underside of 05_27-29.