Two eye-catching butterflies on stone

Peacocks. Photo: Brian Arnold

A familiar butterfly in our gardens.

Where to see

Habitat: Widespread in towns and countryside, including gardens.

Caterpillar foodplants: Stinging nettles

Best places: Anywhere there are flowers to provide nectar.

Reported from the following locations last year*:

When to see

Generally single brooded, emerting in July and lasting through the following spring, but there may be an occasional second brood in the south of the UK. Seen on the wing for most months of the year from March.

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*:

Sightings this year*:


Notes

Size: Large.

The Peacock has several lines of defence against predators: 1) When their wings are folded they are dark and very difficult to see. 2) When attacked, they can flash their eyespots and hiss, by rubbing their wings together. 3) If they are attacked by birds, the big ‘eyespots’ on their wings fool the predator into thinking they are eyes and attacking this part of the wing, thus only harming the wing rather than the more vulnerable body. 4) Not only can they hiss, but they can produce ultrasonic clicks, which deter bats.

You may encounter the adult butterfly on the wing from March through to October. Males and females are very similar.

This is a large butterfly, and there is no butterfly at all similar from above. From below, they are our darkest butterfly; the Comma is also dark, but the ragged edges to its wings make it easy to differentiate.

You may find the adult butterfly (which is one of only six which overwinters as an adult) in your shed, hibernating over the winter. In the wild they probably hibernate in hollow trees.

This is a species where, around June, you may be aware of the black spiny caterpillars, which will be seen in large numbers on stinging nettles.

Photo gallery

Click thumbnails to view larger images.

*Please note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.