The final tally from my annual 20 hour foliage search for eggs and larvae in and around Savernake Forest is a meagre 16. This is the lowest count in eight years of standardized searches there, and is down from 21 in 2015, itself a low ebb. How the mighty are fallen - I found a staggering 179 there in 2013!
I wasn't able to conduct a thorough search at Knepp Wildlands, my other main study site, as Mrs O has been seriously ill. But the searches I was able to conduct reached a comparable conclusion - I was finding larvae at the rate of one every 75 minutes, which is poor by Knepp standards.
Last autumn I predicted that the 2016 emergence would be poor on this blog.
However, the good news is that larval survival this late summer and autumn has been better than in other years, and considerably better than last year. So the prospects for 2017 may well be better, though much depends on winter and spring weather - we need a cold winter, then a late spring followed by a pleasant May and June.
There is always hope: the great Emperor season of 2013 came after I'd found a mere 24 larvae in Savernake in 2012.
The few larvae I'm following are still wearing their Lincoln green, though they should start colouring up now. Here's one from Knepp last Saturday, spinning silk to strengthen the join where his leaf meets the stem -