Nature's THAT DRESS: Colour of rare butterfly's wings divides nation

Nature’s equivalent of THAT DRESS: Pictures show one of Britain’s rarest butterflies has wings that look brown AND blue depending on how you look at them

  • The Purple Emperor is one of Britain’s rarest butterflies but its numbers are rising
  • The male butterfly’s wings can appear blue to some people but brown to others 
  • Andrew Fusek Peters captured the picture in Oversley Woods, Warwickshire
  • Debate over the colour of its wings echoes ‘The Dress’ argument in 2015
  • Internet was divided over whether garment was blue and black or white and gold

One of Britain’s rarest butterflies is threatening to get the internet in a flutter in a ‘The Dress’-style argument over the true colour of its wings.

After decades of decline, the Purple Emperor is making a comeback in record numbers thanks to the recent hot weather.

The species has a magnificent appearance and is affectionately dubbed His Imperial Majesty.

Due to a unique natural phenomenon the colours of the wings of the male can also appear blue to some people but brown to others. 

The debate has echoes of the ‘that dress’ argument in 2015 which saw the internet divided over whether a garment was blue and black or white and gold.

The Purple Emperor is one of Britain’s rarest butterflies but its numbers are rising due to the recent warm spell


Due to a unique natural phenomenon the colours of the wings of the male can also appear blue to some people but brown to others

Remeber THAT DRESS? The debate over the colour of an outfit that split millions

It was the question that divided the internet: was the dress white and gold, or blue and black? 

The two-toned frock sparked a fierce online debate, with millions taking to social media to argue over what colours they see.

The picture of the dress was first posted on Tumblr by Caitlin McNeill, a 21-year-old aspiring singer from Scotland, after noticing her friends saw different colours in the photograph. 

The image has become an online sensation, with posts arguing over the dress’s original colours – and science behind the debate – being viewed and shared millions of times.

 Even celebrities weighed in on the fashion debate, with Kim Kardashian asking her 29.4million Twitter followers to help settle a disagreement between herself and husband Kanye West.

Wildlife photographer Andrew Fusek Peters hopes he has settled the argument with the Purple Emperor after snapping the same butterfly from different angles.

The effect means its wings appear brown or even black when looked at from above but change to blue when viewed from the side.

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

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

‘They have this unbelievable quality 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.

‘The scales refract the light in different ways which is why you see the different colours.

‘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 as I had the lens four foot above as it lay on the ground which they do to pick up salt.’

The effect means its wings appear brown or even black when looked at from above but change to blue when viewed from the side


The debate over the colour of its wings has echoes of ‘The Dress’ argument which sent the internet into a frenzy in 2015 with opinion divided over whether the garment was blue and black or white and gold (pictured)

‘Tthere are lots of photos of them by poo, but thank god that wasn’t the case in mine,’ said Andrew.

‘I had never seen one before in the four years I’ve been photographing butterflies.’

Numbers have declined by 47 per cent since the 1970s, according to the charity Butterfly Conservation, to due loss of its favourite habitat broad-leaved willows.

But the magnificent Purple Emperor is back record numbers this summer thanks to the recent hot spell.

The debate over the colour of its wings has echoes of ‘The Dress’ argument which sent the internet into a frenzy in 2015 with opinion divided over whether the garment was blue and black or white and gold.

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