Tuesday 9 June 2020

Year of the Peacock

My first two butterfly sightings of the year – way back in February – were both of Peacocks. They, it turned out, were harbingers of a huge number of Peacocks emerging from hibernation into a gloriously warm and sunny spring. I can't remember when I last saw so many early in the year – they were so numerous that more than once I found myself very nearly treading on one as it lay basking in my path. And now, wherever I go, I see that practically every nettle patch is black with Peacock caterpillars, larvae in their third, fourth and fifth instars (stages of growth, each of which ends in a moult, and the fifth in pupation – so soon the nettles will be hung with chrysalids). Unless something goes seriously wrong – some nasty insect parasite, say – it looks as if this is going to be very much the Year of the Peacock, the year in which that spectacular beauty becomes, improbably, our most abundant and ubiquitous butterfly.

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