The European Peacock

The European Peacock (Aglais io) is one of the most common butterflies in many parts of Europe. Despite of being common, the species is also one of the most beautiful butterflies. Every time I see one of these creatures I’m just amazed.

This butterfly overwinters as adult butterfly, which makes it one of the earliest species to start flying in spring. They pop-up in two generations. The first are the specimens that have made it through winter, and the second generation formed by the fresh butterflies that hatch around July.

In 2014 this species was well present both in spring and late summer. Even though it has been a very poor butterfly year the European Peacock was doing well and I got many occasions to catch one with my camera. Here’s a gallery of my top shots taken in 2014.

For those interested in more than just the flying beauty there’s some shots on the other stages of metamorphosis. It’s a relatively easy species to find and raise. Furthermore, you’ll get the best close-up on the adult butterfly once hatched. In 2014, I located two “nests” of caterpillars. One at the very early stage and the second with rather large ones. Unfortunately, I had high loss due to parasites. Only a handful made it to an adult butterfly.

Garden attraction

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The butterfly bar I’ve set up in our garden a couple days ago has become a real attraction. I’ve been positively impressed by the variety of visiting species and by the number of individuals stepping by. Here’s a series of snaps about what’s happening just on our very own back-yard.

A huge drawback of setting up a feeding station are the wasps and bumblebees also being attracted. Unfortunately, on days when the butterfly bar is open our kids have to stay inside for safety purpose.

Multiple individuals of European Peacocks (Inachis io), Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) and Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) are continuously feeding outside. Yet missing is the Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis Xanthomelas) which used to be a frequent visitor during early spring when the bar was set up.

The highlight of raising butterflies

Raising butterflies provides a long lasting entertainment to both adults and kids. However, there is a particular highlight. The moment when a fresh butterfly has hatched, dried its wings and is ready to be released.

Sometimes you have plenty of time to take decent photos of the new adult butterflies. Sometimes, it will just take seconds and the butterfly flatters away. Nevertheless, it’s a rewarding moment. All the care-taking pays back with the feeling of having achieved something.

Here’s some photos of releasing European Peacocks (Inachis io) and Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta). The European Peacocks came with an additional challenge. They tend to hatch early in the morning (in my case the Red Admirals hatched around noon). With plain shadow in our garden, and a sleepy daughter it was pretty tricky to get some footage.

Confirming the species

I recently wrote a post about guessing the species. It’s not always trivial to get clarification on the species of an individual. Especially in case of young caterpillars there might be only one safe way to determine the species: Grab some individuals in a jar and raise them!

So I did. I went back to the spot where I found a rather large colony of what I believed was caterpillars of the Map (Araschnia levana). Even though I found caterpillars of the Map 2 meters away from the colony they did not 100% look identical. To get peace of mind I placed 5 caterpillars in a box at home, fed them and started to wait.

For the comparison I had the caterpillars of A. levana, which I collected earlier, in a separate box. These were identified by observing the horns on the head of the caterpillars. This unique characteristic leaves no doubt that the individuals are from the Map.

After about 7-10 days the unidentified specimen started to reach a size where details can be easier observed. This also means the species can finally be determined. And my guess was wrong, but my doubt was confirmed. The caterpillars indeed are from the European Peacock (Inachis io), not from the Map.

Bottom line, I must admit this small experiment has been fun. Furthermore, the European Peacock is one of my season targets I wanted to raise this summer. That said, one more target has been nailed rather through coincidence. But I’ll take it.

Easter weekend, day 2

I’ve been lucky so far this spring and I caught pretty much every object of interest on a decent photo. However, this is not how it works in a lepidopterist’s life. Often you may spot a rare species which just flies by and disappears. In fact, the same happens with common species as well.

So it came that the first Comma (Polygonia c-album), which I spotted right at the beginning of my trip, did not have any intention to start posing. Right after I was able to identify it, yet another Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas) was driving it off its territory. All I got was one shot that wasn’t properly focused (see below).

Nevertheless, previously I didn’t get a good shot at the European Peacock (Inachis io). This time, I sighted three individuals and also got better results.

Another lesson I had to learn was that hay fever may lead to perspiration, and perspiration to dehydration. Spending two hours in the greenery is pretty physical, and it took me quite some time to recover afterwards.

All in all, another good day out. And the amount of butterflies being active these days at Espoo Central Park (Finland) is amazing. It’s only a couple species, but it’s great to get a good chance to get some sightings. While I’m looking forward to spotting more species this weekend I’m also exploring a really nice biotope. An area with abandoned houses turns out to be a true oasis. Only a couple more weeks and the same biotope will provide the caterpillars of all the species observed lately.

Photos

Easter weekend, day 1

Sunshine and warm, decent spring weather. What a promising 4 day weekend. I managed to get out into the greenery for two hours and I headed to a biotope I recently explored. It turned out to be a real hot spot.

Right after I got out of the car I spotted a Common Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) from the distance. Trying to catch it with my camera a Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas) came to defended its territory from the Brimstone. A couple seconds later, a Moarning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) sailed across. I decided to follow this one for the start. Nevertheless, I knew right away this is going to be a good day!

I didn’t have to leave the one and only field I entered. Within a diameter of perhaps 50-100 meters all the magic happened. The saldo of those two hours was following: 2-3 Scarce Tortoiseshells, 3-4 Common Brimstones, one Moarning Cloak, two Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae), and one European Peacock (Inachis io). Especially the European Peacock was a beauty I was looking forward to meet again.

The above named individuals were, encouraged by the warm spring sun, heavily defending their territory. I saw Multiple times an individual driving off others from its own or other species. This is always a nice play to watch.

After these rather good list of sightings the expectations for day 2 are high. I’m particularly looking forward to spotting two species I’ve not met yet this spring: The Comma (Polygonia c-album) and the Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi).

Photos