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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Peacock, Findon Valley, Sussex 8-Aug-2012
Wingspan
Male: 63 - 68mm
Female: 67 - 75mm
Photo © Neil Hulme
Peacock

Aglais io
Number: 59.026
B&F No.: 1597
Family:Nymphalidae (Swainson, 1827)
Subfamily:Nymphalinae (Swainson, 1827)
Tribe:Nymphalini (Swainson, 1827)
Genus:Aglais (Dalman, 1816)
Subgenus: 
Species:io (Linnaeus, 1758)
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  Introduction  

The Peacock is a familiar sight in gardens across the British Isles and is unmistakable, with quite spectacular eyes on the upperside of the hindwings that give this butterfly its name. These eyes must appear very threatening to predators, such as mice, that confront this butterfly head-on, where the body forming a "beak", as shown in the image below.

The underside is a different matter altogether, being almost black, providing perfect camouflage when the butterfly is at rest on a tree trunk, or when hibernating. In addition to camouflage and large eyes, the butterfly is able to make a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together that is audible to human ears. All in all, this butterfly must appear very threatening to any predator that might come across it. This is a highly mobile butterfly that occurs throughout the British Isles, including Orkney and Shetland, although it is not found in parts of northern Scotland. However, its range does seem to be increasing, with sightings from new areas being recorded every year.

Aglais io

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden).


Peacock - imago - Noar Hill - 30-Jul-04
Male
Photo © Pete Eeles
Peacock, Longmoor, 20/07/2014
Male Underside
Photo © Pauline
Peacock Female - Chaldon, Surrey 9-April-11
Female
Photo © Vince Massimo
Ovipositing Peacock - Coulsdon, Surrey 19-May-2013
Female Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

  Phenology  

This butterfly is generally single-brooded. However, in good years, a small second brood may appear. Adults may be seen at any time of the year, with warm weather waking them from hibernation. The majority emerge from hibernation at the end of March and beginning of April. These mate and ultimately give rise to the next generation that emerges at the end of July.


The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.


  Habitat  

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.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Hop (Humulus lupulus) and Small Nettle (Urtica urens) are also used.

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.). Betony (Stachys officinalis), Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Hawkweeds (Hieracium/Hypochoeris), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), Honeydew / Sap (), Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Privet (Ligustrum vulgare), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are also used.

  Imago  

The adults spend most of the morning nectaring. Males set up territories around midday, often on the sunny side of a wood, where they wait for a passing female. Males will fly up at any dark object, which is one way of sexing this species since the two sexes are very difficult to tell apart, being almost identical in appearance. When a female is found she flies off, trying to escape the male that is in pursuit. If he succeeds in staying with her then the pair mate. Females subsequently take great care when egg-laying, selecting foodplants that are in full sun.

Adults emerging in summer nectar on a variety of flowers, building up essential body fats before overwintering.


Peacock - Chaldon, Surrey 2-Aug-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Aug-2009
Inachis io, Binsted Wood, Sussex 17-July-07
Photo © m_galathea
Peacock - Hardwick, CAMBS - 01-Aug-09
Photo © Trev Sawyer
01-Aug-2009
Peacock - East Lothian, Scotland 2-Sept-2012
Photo © NickMorgan
Peacock - imago - Noar Hill - 30-Jul-04 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jul-2004
Peacock - imago - Noar Hill - 30-Jul-04
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Jul-2004
Peacock Female - Chaldon, Surrey 9-April-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
09-Apr-2011
Peacock - imago - Straits Inclosure, Alice Holt Forest - 16-Jul-09 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2009
Peacock - Arnside Knott, Cumbria 29-July-10
Photo © Vince Massimo
29-Jul-2010
Peacock - imago - Midgham Lakes - 13-Apr-10 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Apr-2010
Peacock - Shadowbrook Meadows Solihull 11.08.2012
Photo © nfreem
11-Aug-2012
Peacock - imago - Greenham Common - 24-Jul-11 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
Peacock - Crawley, Sussex 6-April-07
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Apr-2007
Peacock Female - Coulsdon, Surrey 5-May-08
Photo © Vince Massimo
05-May-2008
Peacock male (reared) - Caterham, Surrey 26-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jul-2012
Peacock underside - Shadowbrook Meadows Solihull 11.08.2012
Photo © nfreem
11-Aug-2012
Peacock - Shadowbrook Meadows Solihull 18.08.2012
Photo © nfreem
18-Aug-2012
Peacock (freshly hatched) - Caterham, Surrey July 2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012
Peacock (reared and released) - Caterham, Surrey 1-Aug-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Aug-2012
Peacock, Findon Valley, Sussex 8-Aug-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
08-Aug-2012
Peacock courting pair - Solihull 20.04.2013
Photo © nfreem
20-Apr-2013
Peacock courting pair - Solihull 20.04.2013 127
Photo © nfreem
20-Apr-2013
Ovipositing Peacock - Coulsdon, Surrey 19-May-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
19-May-2013
Peacock, Wrotham, Kent, 1st May 2013
Photo © Lee Hurrell
Peacock - Solihull West Midlands 10.08.2013
Photo © nfreem
10-Aug-2013
10.8.2013 Summer brood Peacock, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey 035
Photo © hideandseek
10-Aug-2013
Peacock Wilberfoss Yorkshire 8th August 2013
Photo © millerd
08-Aug-2013
Peacock - Ffos-y-ffin - 07-08-2013
Photo © Wurzel
07-Aug-2013
Peacock - Castle Hills Solihull 29.03.2013
Photo © nfreem
29-Mar-2014
Peacock - River Cole Hall Green Birmingham April 11th 2014
Photo © nfreem
11-Apr-2014
Peacocks egg laying - Coulsdon, Surrey 16-April-2104
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Apr-2014
Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell ovipositing - Hylands Park, nr Chelmsford 9-April-2014
Photo © essexbuzzard
Peacock - imago - Thatcham - 13-Apr-14
Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Apr-2014
3 Peacock butterflies - Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Photo © Samm
Peacock, Longmoor, 20/07/2014
Photo © Pauline
20-Jul-2014
Peacock emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, Reared
Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

Unclassified Aberrations


Peacock - aberration - Noar Hill - 28-Jul-06 (0634)
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Aug-2006
21.4.2013  Aberration Peacock, male, Surrey 011
Photo © hideandseek
21-Apr-2013
21.4.2013  Aberration Peacock, male, Surrey 006
Photo © hideandseek
21-Apr-2013
21.4.2013  Aberration Peacock, male, Surrey 007
Photo © hideandseek
21-Apr-2013
Shotover park, Oxfordshire - 20-Jul-13 [Michael Pierce]
Photo © Michael Pierce
20-Jul-2013
LHP Peacock Extra Blue Scales - Gamlingay Wood 16.7.14
Photo © gazillion
16-Jul-2014

  Ovum  

Females lay 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 more-sheltered position than those selected by the Small Tortoiseshell. Eggs hatch in 1 to 3 weeks.


Inachis io - ova laying - N Croatia - 20.06.2011
Photo © biosdr
20-Jun-2011
Inachis io - ova - N Croatia - 20.06.2011
Photo © biosdr
20-Jun-2011
Peacock ova - Coulsdon, Surrey 2-May-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
Peacock ova - Coulsdon, Surrey 2-May-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
Peacock ova - Coulsdon, Surrey 2-May-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-May-2013
Peacock ova - Coulsdon, Surrey 2-May-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-May-2013
Peacock ova - Coulsdon, Surrey 19-May-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
19-May-2013
Peacock ova - Coulsdon, Surrey 19-May-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
19-May-2013
Peacock ova - Chaldon, Surrey 26-May-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
26-May-2013
Peacock - ovum - Coulsdon, Surrey - 09-May-13-4
Photo © Pete Eeles
Peacock - ovum - Coulsdon, Surrey - 09-May-13-6
Photo © Pete Eeles
Peacock ova hatching - Coulsdon, Surrey 15-June-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Jun-2013
Peacock ova (1 day before hatching) - Coulsdon, Surrey 14-June-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
14-Jun-2013
Peacock double egg mass (with parasitic wasp) - Coulsdon, Surrey 16-April-2014
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Apr-2014
Peacock double egg mass (with parasitic wasp) - Coulsdon, Surrey 16-April-2014
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Apr-2014
Rake Bottom, 19/04/2014
Photo © Pauline
19-Apr-2014

  Larva  

The behaviour of the larva is very similar to that of the Small Tortoiseshell, the two species often being seen together. In the first instar, Peacock larvae are very similar to those of the Small Tortoiseshell. However, mature Peacock larvae are jet black for the most part, whereas Small Tortoiseshell larvae are typically dark green with a pair of yellow stripes running down the length of their sides.

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 ay night. There are 4 moults in total.


Peacock - Caterpillar 29/06/2009, Mountstewart, Co Down, Northern Ireland
Photo © Dave McCormick
29-Jun-2009
Peacock Larva - Danebury Ring - 26-6-09
Photo © Gwenhwyfar
26-Jun-2009
Peacock Larvae - Martin Down - 22-6-08
Photo © Gwenhwyfar
22-Jun-2008
Peacock - larva - Thatcham - 09-Jun-07 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2007
Peacock larva (with Small Tortoiseshell larvae) - Ashford Hill NNR - Uknown date [Tim Norriss]
Photo © Tim Norriss
Peacock - larva - Runcorn - 04-Jun-07 [Glynn McDonald]
Photo © Glynn McDonald
Peacock larvae (first instar web) - Coulsdon, Surrey 25-June-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jun-2012
Peacock larvae (first instar web) - Coulsdon, Surrey 25-June-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jun-2012
Peacock larvae (first and second instars) - Coulsdon, Surrey 25-June-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jun-2012
Peacock larvae (second instar web) - Coulsdon, Surrey 25-June-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jun-2012
Peacock larvae (second instar pre-moult group) - Caterham, Surrey 4-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Jul-2012
Peacock larvae (third instar web) - Coulsdon, Surrey 15-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Jul-2012
Peacock larva (third instar) - Caterham, Surrey 12-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
12-Jul-2012
Peacock larvae (third and fourth instars) - Caterham, Surrey 6-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jul-2012
Peacock larva completing pupation - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock larva (minutes before pupating) - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock larva (preparing to pupate) - Caterham, Surrey 14-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
14-Jul-2012
Peacock larva (spinning a silk pad and preparing to pupate) - Caterham, Surrey 14-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Jul-2012
Phobocampe confusa - Caterham, Surrey 27-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
27-Jul-2012
Phobocampe confusa (hatched cocoon) - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2012
Phobocampe confusa cocoons - Caterham, Surrey 8-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
08-Jul-2012
Peacock - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 23-Jun-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Peacock - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 26-Jun-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Peacock - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 26-Jun-12-1
Photo © Pete Eeles
Peacock larvae first instar approx 2 days old - Solihull 22.06.2013
Photo © nfreem
22-Jun-2013
Peacock larvae first instar approx 5 days old - Solihull 25.06.2013
Photo © nfreem
25-Jun-2013
Peacock larvae first instar approx 6 days old - Solihull 26.06.2013
Photo © nfreem
26-Jun-2013
Peacock larvae (newly emerged) - Coulsdon, Surrey 15-June-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Jun-2013
Peacock Larvae - Somerset - 03/07/13
Photo © William
03-Jul-2013
Peacock Larva - Somerset - 04/07/13
Photo © William
04-Jul-2013
Peacock Larvae - First Instar - Somerset - 01/06/14
Photo © William
01-Jun-2014
Peacock - Freshly Moulted Second Instar - Somerset - 01/06/14
Photo © William
01-Jun-2014
Peacock Larva Pupating - Somerset - 25/06/14
Photo © William
21-Jun-2014

  Pupa  

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.


Peacock - pupa - Thatcham - 04-Jul-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Jul-2009
Peacock - pupa - Thatcham - 15-Jul-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Jul-2009
Peacock pupa (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 31-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 31-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 31-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 31-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 31-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 31-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (25 minutes before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 31-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (1 hour 40 minutes before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 26-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
26-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (3 hours 40 minutes before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 30-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
30-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (18 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 25-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (36 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 24-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (1 week old) - Caterham, Surrey 23-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
23-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (7 hours old) - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (30 minutes old) - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (freshly emerged) - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (pale form) - Caterham, Surrey 25-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (pale form) - Caterham, Surrey 25-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jul-2012
Peacock pupa (pale form) - Caterham, Surrey 25-July-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jul-2012
Peacock Pupa - Somerset - 25/06/14
Photo © William
21-Jun-2014
Peacock pupa, grey, reared, Liphook, 13/07/2014
Photo © Pauline
13-Jul-2014
Peacock pupa, green, reared, Liphook, 13/07/2014
Photo © Pauline
13-Jul-2014
Peacock emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, Reared
Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014
Peacock emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, Reared
Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014
Peacock emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, Reared
Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014
Peacock emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, Reared
Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

  Similar Species  

No similar species found.

  Videos  

Video © Peter Eeles
Courting Peacock butterflies
Video © John Chapple
Peacock.
Video © Philip Wright
Peacock Butterfly nectaring on Willow

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Arthur's Seat, Ashampstead Common, Aspal Close, Aylesbeare Common, Banstead Downs, Banstead Woods, Bedfont Lakes Country Park LNR, Bovey Valley Woodlands, Bryncelyn Hall, Coombe Heath, Darley, Devil's Ditch, Dundas Castle, East Ord, Fleam Dyke, Forest Farm Meadows, Glenarm, Horsenden Hill, Hounslow Heath LNR, Howardian Local Nature Reserve, Hutton Roof Crags, Hyde, Kinghorn Loch Path, Kirkcaldy, Latton Woods, Linn Dean, Linn of Tummel, Mansmead wood, Mayford Pond, Midgham Lakes, Moors Valley Country Park, Moss Field, Mynydd Marian, Nupend Wood, Old Down, Basingstoke, Piddington Wood, Rookery, Roudsea Wood NNR, Smardale Gill, Stanwick Lakes, Sutton Bingham Reservoir, Tophill Low, Uffmoor Wood, Whixall Moss

  Conservation Status  

Although small decreases in population have been observed, this species seems to be faring well and this common and widespread species has shown signs of colonising the few remaining areas in northern Scotland where it has not historically been found. This butterfly is not, therefore, a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusDistribution TrendPopulation Trend
Not ListedIncreaseDecrease

From The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C.: Systema Naturae. Edn.10. 1758.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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