Skip to main content

Vagrant Emperor


Anax ephippiger (Burmeister, 1839)



Status in Britain and Ireland:

rare vagrant

Local Status:

rare (migrant)


Overall body length 61-70mm
Hindwing length 43-48mm

Flight period:

Not applicable as only 1 record ever made in November

Photograph ©  B. Kemp

Male Vagrant Emperor

The abdomen is brown with a blue saddle on the upper side of segment 2. A black dorsal line extends down the abdomen and gets broader on segments 8-10, resulting in the appearance of paired brown spots. The eyes and thorax are brown with a yellow green lower half and 2 distinctive black bars are present on the frons. The anal appendages are broad and distinctively pointed.

Photograph ©  J. Ichter

Female Vagrant Emperor

The females are darker in colour and the blue saddle on segment 2 is far less obvious appearing as a violet shade. The anal appendages are broad and distinctively pointed.

Similar Species

Though the Emperor and Lesser Emperor may appear similar the pattern of the wing cells in Vagrant Emperor is diagnostic. In the additional photographs the diagnostic area of the wing is outlined in red showing the cells are arranged in 3 irregular rows rather than 2 regular rows as seen in the Emperor and Lesser Emperor. Remember this species has only ever been recorded once in Shropshire and the Lesser Emperor has never been recorded.


A compulsive migrant species with very rapid larval development allowing temporary bodies of water in hot climates to be used as breeding grounds (Smallshire & Swash, 2014).


No breeding populations in Shropshire.

Shropshire Distribution

Only 2 records of this species has ever been made in Shropshire; firstly at Muxton Marsh near Telford on 23rd November, 2013 and secondly on 19th October, 2018 at Harlescott, Shrewsbury.  Both extraordinary sightings were made when a general influx of this rare migrant species was being observed in a number of areas in Wales, Ireland and England.

Shropshire Distribution Map (SEDN)

© Crown copyright 2016 OS 100049049

Where to see in Shropshire

These rare migrants are usually found following strong southerly winds that carry these insects northwards from Africa. Migrations are more typically into southern Europe or occasionally the south coast of the UK. Occasionally individuals may be found in moth traps attracted to the light.


National Distribution

Additional Photographs

Deceased female – the only specimen found to date in Shropshire. Photograph © G. Hiatt
Diagnostic wing cell arrangement outlined in red. Photograph © S. Rees Evans