Aglais iopeacock butterfly

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Geographic Range

The peacock butterfly is found throughout Europe and the temperate regions of Asia and Japan (Carter 1992).

Habitat

These butterflies, accustomed to the more temperate regions of Eurasia, primarily inhabit woods, fields, meadows, pastures, parks, and gardens. In the garden and park areas, the peacock butterfly is the most common butterfly found. It has been found in lowlands, hills, and mountains reaching altitudes of 8,200 feet (Zahraduik 1991).

Physical Description

The adult members of the species are light brown on the dorsal surface and dark brown on the ventral surface with purplish-black lines for camouflage; the wingspan varies from 2 1/4" - 2 1/2" (Carter 1992). The forelegs of the butterfly are reduced to form brush-like cleaning tools that render it incapable of holding onto a substrate. The feet of the butterfly differ between sexes with the male having only one elongated segment and the female having five segments. Both sexes lack any claws on the body (Knopf 1975). The females are somewhat larger than the males and both have prominent eyespots which give the species its common name. These eyespots are used to deter predators from the butterfly's vulnerable body (Carter 1992).

The larval stage of the species produces a black, shiny caterpillar with branched spines (spurs) along its back. The larvae pupate in a strange-shaped cocoon that is grey/green or brown in color with two horns at the head. The head of the pupae hangs down and only the abdomen is anchored with silk (Grzimek 1972).

Reproduction

The life span of peacock butterflies is almost a year, beginning with the emergence from the egg in early summer to reproductive maturity followed by death late in the subsequent spring, approximately in May (Zahraduik 1991). In May, females lay olive-green ovoid eggs in large clusters on host plants, which are typically stinging nettles and hops; the larvae will emerge in July (Burton 1979).

Behavior

After emerging from the cocoon in mid-summer, the butterflies utilize the daytime for flight (Carter 1992). During the winter, they hibernate in hollow trees and other hiding places, including barns and attics, until their re-emergence in early spring (Carter 1992 & Zahraduik 1991).

Food Habits

Following their reemergence in early spring, the mature peacock butterflies feed on flowering sallows, dandelions, wild marjoram, danewort, hemp agrimony, and clover fields. As the season progress into fall and these plants are no longer abundant, the butterflies begin to feed upon asters, thistles, chrysanthemums, sap from deciduous trees, and overripe fruit. The butterfly's survival can be attributed to its ability to adapt to the deterioration of its food supply, moving to different forms of vegetation as needed (Zahraduik 1991).

The caterpillars use the hops and stinging nettles (upon which they have emerged from eggs) as their main source of food until they pupate (Carter 1992).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The peacock butterfly does not positively benefit humans, except in its role as pollinator.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The peacock butterfly does not adversely affect humans.

Conservation Status

Contributors

Ellie Portwood (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Burton, .. 1979. The Oxford Book of Insects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carter, .. 1992. Butterflies and Moths. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Inc..

Grzimek, B. 1972. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 2. New York: Van Norstrand Reinhold Company.

Knopf, A. 1975. Butterflies. Milan: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..

Zahraduik, J. 1991. The Illustrated Book of Insects. Secaucus: Chartwell Books, Inc..