Critter of the Week: Peacock Butterfly

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM: ANILALIA

CLADE: EUARTHROPODA

CLASS: INSECTA

ORDER: LEPIDOPTERA

FAMILY: NYMPHALIDAE

GENUS: AGLAIS

SPECIES: A. IO

BINOMIAL NAME: AGLAIS IO

PEACOCK BUTTERFLY RANGE

 

The peacock butterfly, also known as the European peacock, can be found in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and in temperate Asia. They are one of the larger butterflies having a wingspan of a little over two inches, with the females being slightly smaller. They can be identified by their red wings, which have a characteristic black, blue, and yellow eyespot on the tips. Even though the tops of their wings are bright and beautiful, the underside is a dark brown and black.

 

The peacock butterfly has two lines of defense against common predators such as birds and rodents. Their first is crypsis, which is a process used by butterflies that blend into their environment, usually appearing as a dead leaf. If this doesn’t work, and the peacock butterfly is attacked, it’ll flash its wings to show their eyespots, and make a hissing noise to scare off predators.

 

 

 

 

The peacock butterfly’s diet is much vaster than its caterpillar form. The caterpillars will focus mainly on nettle plants, while the adult butterflies not only focus on nectar from plants such as willows, dandelions, and clover, but also tree sap and rotten fruit. Like all other butterflies, the peacock butterfly can only detect the colors red, green, and yellow, which is the main way they find food. 

 

 

Since the peacock butterflies live in temperate areas, the winters are freezing with a lack of food. To survive, these butterflies will hibernate in crevices, hollow trees, or attics from about September to February. Adults will gather as much nectar as they can to prepare for this hibernation, however, predators are still a threat. Rodents are a prominent danger, and the eye spots are ineffective since the temporary hiding spots are so dark. Yet, the hissing sounds will usually scare rodents off.

 

 

Male peacock butterflies are territorial and will set up a territory near popular spots that females might cross, such as a watering hole or a place with a lot of food. Mating season starts right after hibernation where the female will lay 400-500 eggs in an area dense with nettle plants, which the caterpillars love to eat. The caterpillars grow to about 1.5 inches and are black with rows of barbed spikes and white dots.