Peacock

Aglais (Inachis) io


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Aglais io

Suffolk, UK, April 2019

Aglais io

Suffolk, UK, April 2019

Aglais io

Suffolk, UK, March 2019

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

Aglais io

Suffolk, July 2019

Switzerland, September 2006

A childhood picture

Aglais io eggs

Eggs, attended by parasitoid wasps

Aglais io larvae

Larvae, Switzerland, June 2010

Aglais io larvae

Larvae, Switzerland, June 2010

Aglais io distribution

Distribution - populations very scattered and sparse in southern Iberia

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.

Adults hibernate, usually waking up in March, though because they often use human outhouses and sheds - even churches and other large buildings - they are often disturbed earlier in the winter. They love to bask in the sun and readily take both minerals and nectar, being particularly fond of early spring flowers such as dandelion and sallow or blackthorn blossom. Eggs are laid in dense groups on the undersides of nettles and caterpillars feed in similarly dense groups until shortly prior to pupation, when they disperse. There is a single generation each year. Fresh adults emerge from July throughout the rest of the summer. Hibernated individuals persist on the wing until late May or even June, especially in shady places in the mountains, where they may remain in hibernation much longer than elsewhere.