Friday, 5 February 2010

Beauty that can't wait for Spring

I gained a new friend today, although he or she isn't saying much, being that he or she is a stunning Peacock butterfly whom I found shivering outside my window this afternoon.

According to Ian, a very helpful and informative chap on the other end of the phone at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the slight increase in temperatures across London has confused quite a few insects and prompted them prematurely to come out of hibernation. 

"If you leave it outside, it will die of cold," said Ian. 
- "That's if next door's cat doesn't get hold of it first," I replied. 

Ian advised me to dissolve some sugar in warm water and try to get the Peacock to feed and gain energy. Then put the butterfly in a shoe box. Cut a hole in the box for air, big enough for the butterfly to get out if it wants to stretch its wings.

After a hasty photo-shoot, I duly followed these instructions. My new tenant has stopped shivering and seems OK. Fingers crossed.

As you know, Peacock butterflies (Inachis're impressed, eh !) are common to Britain and Ireland. The adults fly from July to September and again in Spring after hibernation. They feed on flower nectar and rest by folding up their wings. As you can see from the photo of my little friend below, the Peacock is blessed with superbly camouflaged charcoal underwings (click on image to enlarge).

Apparently, females lay batches of up to 500 eggs after mating in May. Now, does anyone know if it's a boy or a girl? 

Thanks to Ian at the RSPB and to Amrit for their helpful butterfly care suggestions. 

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're welcome :)