Whilst pottering around yesterday, I was thrilled to see the annual return of an old friend to the garden.
The Peacock Butterfly (Inachis Io), is a familiar sight in gardens up and down the British Isles. Fluttering from bloom to bloom, my peacock acquaintance circled me several times to inquire as to Why I was removing a delicious dandelion from the borders? Why I was mowing the lawn in that direction? and Why I was unpacking stored Dahlia tubers from a wooden crate? Jeepers creepers, they really are the most inquisitive of creatures.
Although renowned for feasting on nettles, dandelions and thistles, my fervent weeding leaves the butterflies no option but to find alternative nectar within the garden. Erysimum seems to be their current plat du jour where they can be found throughout the morning, face-down, slurping and gorging themselves on its sugary nectar.
Males set up territories around midday, often on the sunniest side of the garden, leaning against a tree where they nonchalantly chew gum whilst waiting for a passing female. If they encounter a male, the territorial resident will see him off briskly. When a female is found, he will then go through an extended courtship chase before she allows him to mate. He must demonstrate high-performance, top gun flight capabilities if he is to have any chance of cancelling his membership to match.com
The infamous eye spots are one of the Peacock butterfly's primary defense mechanisms, which they flash to warn off hungry blue tits or other avian predators. It is also able to produce a rather effective and defensive hissing noise by rubbing its wings together, that is apparently audible to the human ear. I haven't witnessed this behaviour to date, no doubt I'll be found leaning into the borders over the coming weeks, with a cupped hand behind my ear.
One can only assume that after such a hectic day that the Peacock butterfly hits the sack early to prepare for another tomorrow full of adventures. So bear a thought for my diaphanous winged friends this Springtime and take the time to say hello, it ain't that easy being a butterfly.