Peacock

Aglais io (ag-LAR-iss EYE-oh)

Peacock, Findon Valley, Sussex 8-Aug-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
 

Wingspan
Male: 63 - 68mm
Female: 67 - 75mm

Checklist Number
59.026

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:NymphalinaeRafinesque, 1815
Tribe:NymphaliniRafinesque, 1815
Genus:AglaisDalman, 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

Photo Album ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1699Peacock's EyePetiver (1695-1703)
1742Peacock ButterflyWilkes (1742)

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 StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Not Listed
Increase+16
Increase+17
Stable+3
Increase+21

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

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.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

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.

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.

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.

Aglais io

Peacock, Findon Valley, Sussex 8-Aug-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
08-Aug-2012

Peacocks egg laying - Coulsdon, Surrey 16-April-2104

Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Apr-2014

Peacock - imago - Midgham Lakes - 13-Apr-10 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Apr-2010

Peacock courting pair - Solihull 20.04.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
20-Apr-2013

Peacock Butterflies in the East Wickham Open Space, LB of Bexley 8-April-2015

Photo © Mike Robinson

Peacock - Solihull West Midlands 10.08.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
10-Aug-2013

Peacock, Cothill, Oxon-2 Apr 2016

Photo © MikeOxon

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 - Greenham Common - 24-Jul-11 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles

Peacock - Bickenhill, Solihull 19.07.2015

Photo © Neil Freeman
19-Jul-2015

Peacock emerging, 26/07/2014, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
26-Jul-2014

Peacock - Castle Hills Solihull 29.03.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
29-Mar-2014

Peacock pair - Bickenhill, Solihull 06.04.2015

Photo © Neil Freeman
06-Apr-2015

Peacock Female - Coulsdon, Surrey 5-May-08

Photo © Vince Massimo
05-May-2008

Peacock - Bickenhill, Solihull 06.04.2015

Photo © Neil Freeman
06-Apr-2015

Peacock - imago - Straits Inclosure, Alice Holt Forest - 16-Jul-09 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2009

Peacock (Inachis io) - Trentham Gardens, Trentham, Staffs. - 2nd September, 2015

Photo © celery

Peacock - Shadowbrook Meadows Solihull 18.08.2012

Photo © Neil Freeman
18-Aug-2012

Peacock emerging, 26/07/2014, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
26-Jul-2014

Photo Album (64 photos) ...


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 female laying - Solihull 31.05.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
31-May-2013

Peacock ova - Solihull 31.05.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
31-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

Peacock ova with mite - Hampshire 10-May-2015

Photo © jackz432r
10-May-2015

Photo Album (19 photos) ...


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.

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

Peacock - larva - Thatcham - 09-Jun-07 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2007

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 larvae (first and second instars) - Coulsdon, Surrey 25-June-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jun-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

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


1st Instar

Description to be completed.

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 instar approx 2 days old - Solihull 22.06.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
22-Jun-2013

Peacock larvae first instar approx 5 days old - Solihull 25.06.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
25-Jun-2013

Peacock larvae first instar approx 6 days old - Solihull 26.06.2013

Photo © Neil Freeman
26-Jun-2013

Peacock larvae (newly emerged) - Coulsdon, Surrey 15-June-2013

Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Jun-2013

Peacock Larvae - First Instar - Somerset - 01/06/14

Photo © William
01-Jun-2014

Photo Album (7 photos) ...


2nd Instar

Description to be completed.

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 - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 26-Jun-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Peacock - Freshly Moulted Second Instar - Somerset - 01/06/14

Photo © William
01-Jun-2014

Photo Album (4 photos) ...


3rd Instar

Description to be completed.

Peacock - Caterpillar 29/06/2009, Mountstewart, Co Down, Northern Ireland

Photo © Dave McCormick
29-Jun-2009

Peacock Larvae - Martin Down - 22-6-08

Photo © Gwenhwyfar
22-Jun-2008

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 - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 23-Jun-12

Photo © Pete Eeles

Peacock - larva - Magdalen Hill Down - 26-Jun-12-1

Photo © Pete Eeles

Peacock Larvae - Somerset - 03/07/13

Photo © William
03-Jul-2013

Peacock - Larvae - Durlston - 11 July 2014

Photo © Coopera

Photo Album (8 photos) ...


4th Instar

Description to be completed.

Peacock larvae (third and fourth instars) - Caterham, Surrey 6-July-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jul-2012

Photo Album (1 photos) ...


5th Instar

Description to be completed.

Peacock Larva - Danebury Ring - 26-6-09

Photo © Gwenhwyfar
26-Jun-2009

Peacock - larva - Runcorn - 04-Jun-07 [Glynn McDonald]

Photo © Glynn McDonald

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

Peacock Larva - Somerset - 04/07/13

Photo © William
04-Jul-2013

Peacock Larva Pupating - Somerset - 25/06/14

Photo © William
21-Jun-2014

Peacock larva - Knepp Estate 2-July-2016

Photo © Neil Hulme
02-Jul-2016

Photo Album (13 photos) ...


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 emerging, 26/07/2014, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
26-Jul-2014

Peacock emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, Reared

Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

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 emerging, Liphook, 24/07/2014, Reared

Photo © Pauline
24-Jul-2014

Peacock pupa, grey, reared, Liphook, 13/07/2014

Photo © Pauline
13-Jul-2014

Peacock emerging, 26/07/2014, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
26-Jul-2014

Peacock pupa (hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 31-July-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
31-Jul-2012

Peacock emerging, 26/07/2014, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
26-Jul-2014

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 (freshly emerged) - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012

Peacock pupa, green, reared, Liphook, 13/07/2014

Photo © Pauline
13-Jul-2014

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 (pale form) - Caterham, Surrey 25-July-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Jul-2012

Peacock emerging, 26/07/2014, Liphook, reared

Photo © Pauline
26-Jul-2014

Peacock pupa (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 (30 minutes old) - Caterham, Surrey 16-July-2012

Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2012

Photo Album (38 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

No similar species found.

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Dalman (1816) Dalman, J.W. (1816) Kongl. Svenska Vetenskaps akademiens Handlingar.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Petiver (1695-1703) Petiver, J. (1695-1703) Musei Petiveriani centuria prima-decima, rariora naturae continens.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.
Wilkes (1742) Wilkes, B. (1742) Twelve New Designs of English Butterflies.