Peacock

Aglais (Inachis) io


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Suffolk, UK, April 2007

Suffolk, UK, April 2007

Suffolk, UK, April 2007

Aglais io

Switzerland, March 2014

Aglais io

Switzerland, March 2014

Aglais io

Switzerland, April 2014

Switzerland, September 2006

A childhood picture

The peacock is one of Europe's most striking and familiar butterflies. It is very widespread and particularly common near human habitation because of its use of nettles as a foodplant and also its love of taking nectar from garden flowers. It spends the winter as an adult and so is often one of the first butterflies to be seen in the spring, when other species are not around.

The 'eyes' are deliberate illusions which have saved the lives of many of these butterflies. A resting peacock (not feeding or sunning) will tend to hold the wings closed over its back but on the approach of a potential predator will open them rapidly, giving the sudden and startling impression of an owl or some similar threat (most carnivorous birds and animals have two large eyes on the front of the face, for stereo vision). This is sufficient to frighten off most small birds or lizards. Furthermore, a particularly bold predator will tend to attack the eyes first, to blind its prey. This, of course, fails - the butterfly may be damaged but will not be incapacitated and will live to frighten more potential enemies in the future.