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Peacock Butterfly , Inachis io

The peacock butterfly is one of the most common garden butterfly , found throughout most of England and Wales , and more rarely in Scotland . It’s a regular visitor to the Wildflower Meadow Hide ,and normally in good numbers. It .has brownish-red wings, each with a single, large peacock style eyespot – used to scare predators. Peacock caterpillars are black, covered with short spines and speckled with white spots. They are usually found on stinging nettles. When it rests , its wings closed, showing the almost black, well-camouflaged underside. It has a wingspan of around 65mm.

This butterfly can turn up almost anywhere, given its broad distribution. This butterfly is often encountered while hibernating in outbuildings, such as a garage, shed or barn, where they are often in the company of other individuals. Other hibernation sites include hollow trees and wood piles, where their dark undersides provide excellent camouflage. Adults hibernate over winter, usually in dark spaces like inside sheds and holes in trees. They fold their wings up and sleep; their dull wings allow them to blend in and rest undisturbed. Peacock butterflies then wake from hibernation during the spring, sometimes as early as March.

Adult Peacock butterflies feed on nectar from flowers including thistle, betony, bluebell, cuckooflower, dandelion and teasel. Buddleia is a particular favourite for peacock butterflies. The caterpillars eat the leaves of stinging nettles and hop.

In May after mating the female Peacock butterfly lays one or more egg clusters of up to 400 eggs on the underside of a Nettle leaf. These are laid in untidy piles, rather than being laid neatly side-by-side. The nettle patches chosen are usually in a sheltered position. On emerging from their eggs, Peacock larvae build a communal web near the top of the plant and from which they emerge to bask and feed and are usually highly conspicuous. As the larvae grow, they move to new plants, building new webs along the way. Webs are decorated with shed larval skins and droppings and are easily found. Larvae have several techniques to avoid predation. When disturbed, a group of larvae will often jerk their bodies from side to side in unison, which must be a formidable sight to any predator. The larvae will also regurgitate green fluid and will, if necessary, curl up in a ball and drop to the ground. Larvae feed both during the day and at night. The larvae disperse as they become fully grown, and eventually wander off to find a suitable pupation site. The pupa is formed head down, attached to a stem or leaf by the cremaster. The pupa has 2 colour forms – yellow and dark grey – the resulting colour depending on the site chosen for pupation. This stage lasts between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on temperature.


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