Peacock butterfly

  • Scientific name: Inachis io
  • Type: Insects

Key information

The peacock butterfly has brownish-red wings, each with a single, large peacock-feather-like eyespot – used to scare predators. It rests with its wings closed, showing the almost black, well-camouflaged underside.

It is one of the commonest garden butterflies, found throughout lowland England and Wales. It is rarer in Scotland.

In May, after mating, females lay their eggs in batches of up to 500. After a week or two the caterpillars hatch and spin a communal web in which they live and feed. As they grow the caterpillars increasingly live in the open.

They pupate alone, and adults emerge from July. The main priority is to feed-up before the winter hibernation in dark crevices, sheds and tree holes. Adults emerge again in spring to mate and breed.

Peacock caterpillars are black, covered with short spines and speckled with white spots. They are usually found on stinging nettles.

What they eat:

Adults drink nectar from flowers. Caterpillars eat nettles.

Measurements:

Wingspan:
63mm

Identifying features:

Natural habitats: Fence/wall Flower border Hanging basket Hedge Herb garden Log pile Meadow area Nettle patch Patio Shed Shrub Window box

Where and when to see them

Feeding on a variety of flowers, basking in the sunshine. Also in woodlands, parks and hedgerows.

You can see adults on any sunny day, sometimes even in winter, but most likely between March and May, and from July to September. Caterpillars can be seen between mid-May and July.

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