Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Peacock:
Inachis io (Linnaeus, 1758)

Peacock egg.
  Peacock caterpillar.
  Peacock chrysalis
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Nymphalidae: Subfamily Nymphalinae : Genus Inachis: Species io:
Eggs are usually laid on the tips of vigorous nettle growth in full sun. The female butterfly lays in large batches of over 200 eggs which hatch about 10 days later. Spinning a silken tent at the tip of the nettle the newly emerged caterpillars feed en-mass. As they get larger they venture from the tent to feed. As they grow, they move to find new fresh nettle growth nearby, again en-mass until the final instar where they often feed out in the open. These striking vivid black spiky caterpillars are easily found, often in large numbers feeding on nettles in full sun.

The caterpillars leave the nettle bed to pupate under nearby vegetation or trees. Pupae found on dark surfaces, such as trees, are often a pale grey colour while those under foliage are a yellow green, both forms have a metallic surface pattern and are very well camouflaged. The Adult butterflies emerge about 12 days later. Hibernation takes place in hollow trees, garden sheds and other sheltered places.

Hibernating Adults can sometimes be seen on the wing in January on mild sunny days and is usually seen throughout late spring, summer and early autumn, with a peak in numbers in August.
Where to see the Peacock in the British Isles
Other notes
The unmistakable Peacock is one of The most beautiful and readily identifiable butterflies in The UK. The eyespots act as a highly effective deterrent to potential predators which even manage to frighten large birds away. The underside of the wings are almost black and render the butterfly almost invisible when its wings are folded upright. If that isn't enough a loud grating noise produced by the rasping of The forewings also acts as a secondary deterrent.

The territorial instinct of the male Peacock protecting a prime patch of nettles often results in males trying to chase off birds who venture too close to his patch.
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Peacock in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Least Concern Least Concern

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
Common Nettle (Urtica dioica).
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 down by -40%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 up by 90%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not listed (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Peacock except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Peacock on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Peacock can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Peacock can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Peacock
Image ID BB1949 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock (imago)
BB1949 ©
Image ID BB1933 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock (imago)
BB1933 ©
Image ID BB1932 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock (imago)
BB1932 ©
Image ID BB1875 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock (imago)
BB1875 ©
Image ID BB1300 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock male (imago)
BB1300 ©
Image ID BB1245 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock (imago)
BB1245 ©
Image ID BB1206 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock female (imago)
BB1206 ©
Image ID BB983 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock unknown (imago)
BB983 ©
Image ID BB909 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock unknown (imago)
BB909 ©
Image ID BB908 - Peacock - © Steven Cheshire
Peacock unknown (imago)
BB908 ©
There are 24 photographs of the Peacock in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Peacock as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 9 named aberrant forms of the Peacock currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. belisaria - Oberthür 1889
ab. exoculata - Weymer 1878
ab. iodes - Ochsenheimer 1807
ab. nigrocellata - Reuss 1911
ab. pallens - Knoch 1927
ab. prochnovi - Pronin 1925
ab. semi-ocellata - Frohawk 1938
ab. splendens - Reuss 1909
ab. viridiocellata - Reuss 1910