My Butterfly Summer

The Peacock butterfly is  widespread in Europe during summer and always looks spectacular.  Its scientfic name is beautiful – Aglais Io.  Io was a princess in Greek mythology so lovely that Zeus fell in love with her.  She also lends her name to one of Jupiter’s moons.

The Peacock butterfly has distinctive markings which look like eyes to a predator.  Seen from above the body looks like a beak and the eyes appear to belong to a much larger animal.  Research with Blue Tits shows this is remarkably effective with predatory birds.  

From below the Peacock is dark, helping it hibernate unnoticed in dead leaves.  If disturbed a flash of the eyes is often enough but if that fails the Peacock will rub its wings together to make a hissing sound, audible to the human ear.  As a last resort the predator is most likely to peck the ‘eye’ area which is not a fatal blow.

Peacocks are long-lived butterflies, overwintering in their adult form.  They emerge in spring ready to feed on Primroses and Bluebells but can also appear on a sunny winter’s day fluttering around  your garage or shed.

The Marbled White butterfly is a member of the Brown butterfly family, not the White.  The family of Browns are called Satyrinae because their caterpillars have sharp points at the end of their bodies.  These are thought to resemble the horns of Satyrs in Greek mythology.

The Marbled White looks like a cross between a stylish lampshade and a chess board.  Its patterned wings are exquisite.

This is another butterfly that relies on long grass.  The female scatters her eggs somewhat randomly in something like an aerial bombing run.  Precision isn’t necessary as the caterpillars like to eat a variety of grasses.  On hatching they eat their own eggshells and promptly hibernate until spring, pupating in long grass or on the ground.

This orange butterfly is a Gatekeeper.  It’s called the Gatekeeper because it’s often seen at the openings of hedges, enjoying bramble patches or Ragwort.  It is also known as the Hedge Brown.

The white butterfly is either a Large White or a Small White.  Size is not an accurate guide to identification.  The extent of the black markings down the upper wings is the way to distinguish them – the Large White has darker, longer black lines.  This picture is taken in my garden and the butterfly is enjoying Verbena Borariensis.  All the other pictures were taken as I walked slowly around a community meadow.  Here the grass has been allowed to grow long and wild flowers such as Ragwort, Knapweed and Ox-eye Daisies thrive.

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