Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 63–75 mm; the fringes not banded (very dark). Slender-bodied to medium built; very short-bodied. The eyes hairy. Antennae reaching noticeably over halfway to the wingtip. The antennal clubs abrupt; flattened (blunt, pale-tipped). Labial palps ascending. Having only 4 fully developed legs (forelegs with two tarsal joints and brushlike in males, those of females having 4 tarsal joints with short setae). Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt. The outer and hind margins angled at about 95–105 degrees. The outer margins concavely curved and angulated; scalloped. Forewings with the outer margin both angulated and markedly scalloped. Uppersides of the forewings purple; spectacularly eye-spotted. The eye-spots 1; posterior towards the apex. Uppersides of the forewings without a discal mark; with two black costal blotches separated by a yellowish spot, the single large purple and black eye-spot embedded in yellow outside the second blotch, a dark greyish terminal band, and 5 small whitish spots traversing the outer part of the eye-spot and the upper part of the sub-terminal region.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded; shortly tailed; with the outer margins scalloped. Uppersides of the hindwings purple; conspicuously patterned. Uppersides of the hindwings spectacularly eye-spotted. The eye-spots 1; posterior towards the apex. Uppersides of the hindwings without a discal mark; coloured more or less like the forewings, but lacking the yellow component, the eye-spot towards the apex black and blue-centered, and larger relative to the area of the wing.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings very dark fuscous, strigulated with black.

Undersides of the hindwings very dark fuscous, strigulated with black; with a conspicuous discal mark (a small, pale spot); without metallic markings.

Wing venation. Forewings 12 veined; without basally dilated veins. Forewings with 1 tubular anal vein; the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only; vein 1b simple. Forewing veins 8 and 9 out of 7, 10–12 separate.

Hindwings 9 veined; with a praecostal spur; with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings with a closed discal cell; the transverse vein complete (continuous between veins 4 and 5). 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins 3+4 proximally joined (connate).

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs barrel-shaped to broadly conical (shortly cylindrical, only slightly narrowing above, apically concave); longitudinally ribbed (with 5–7 ribs). The larvae shortly hairy (the black hairs bestowing a velvety effect); with rows of bristly spines; exposed feeders; feeding in communal tents. On Urtica.

Pupae ridged and angular; conspicuously patterned; with shining-metallic markings; exposed, with no coccoon; suspended from the tail (cremaster), with no median silk girdle.

British representation. 1 species. Inachis (Vanessa) io (Peacock). The adults abroad May to October, or November to April; hibernating.

Status in Britain. Indigenous (and the locals heavily supplemented by immigrants).

Distribution. Northern Scotland, southern Scotland, northern England, English Midlands, East Anglia, Wales, southeast England, central southern England, southwest England, Isle of Wight, and Ireland. Frequenting open places. Habitats calcareous and non-calcareous.

Comments. A strong flier, sometimes gliding.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Nymphalidae.

Illustrations. • Inachis io (Peacock): photos. • Inachis io (Peacock: Giles Watson, photos). • Inachis io (Peacock): egg, larva, pupa. • Larvae of A. urticae, Inachis io, Nymphalis antiopa: Duponchel (1849). • Inachis (Vanessa) io (Peacock: Hübner/Curtis).

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.