Peacock - Inachis io, click for a larger image
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Peacock - Inachis io, click for a larger image
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Peacock - Inachis io, click for a larger image, photo licensed for reuse ©2006 Entomart
Photo ©2006 - Entomart

Peacock - Inachis io
Family - Nymphalidae

A very colourful butterfly with large "eye–spots" on the wings thought to give it some protection from predators as the spots resemble an Owl.  Blue eye–spots on the hindwings are usually only seen as the butterfly prepares to fly.  Wingspan 55–65mm (2.2–2.6in).  A rare stray to North America, they are resident in the UK and found over much of Europe and Northern Asia through to Japan, common in fields, farms, meadows, pastures, parks, and gardens, usually on Stinging Nettle or Hop, also feeds on Buddleia and various Thistles, all of which can be found in Brickfields Park, Creeping Thistle is apparently a favourite.  Single brooded they fly during July to September in Europe.  Adults are light to dark brown with purplish–black lines.  The females are somewhat larger than the males and both have the characteristic prominent eye spots.

Males perch to await the arrival of females, who after mating, carefully lay batches of eggs of 200 or more, on leaves or stems of the food plants, the eggs taking about ten days to hatch into caterpillars which feed en masse in silk "tents" until they are ready to pupate in a cocoon with two "horns" at the head.  The caterpillars are black and shiny with spurs along their backs and can be parasitised by wasps.  Two colour variations of cocoon can be found, one found on dark substrates such as trees, are a dusky grey while those found under foliage are a yellowish green, either is well camouflaged.

Butterflies emerge from the cocoon after about twelve days in mid summer to concentrate on feeding.  The head of the pupae hangs down and only the abdomen is anchored with silk.  Peacocks hibernate in hollow trees and other places over the winter period as an adult, and following their re–emergence in early spring they feed on flowering Willows, Clover, Dandelion and wild Marjoram.  Later in the year they change to feed upon Asters, Thistles, Chrysanthemums and overripe fruit.  Peacocks are one of the first butterflies to appear around March to April.

Agassiz #59.026, Bradley & Fletcher #1597

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