Butterflywatch: first signs of a peacock summer | Butterflies

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When I took a family walk last month, I saw the first signs that this would be a peacock summer.

Bustling across our path every yard or so was a bristling black caterpillar, seeking a place to pupate.

 

We picked up six and put them on some nettles in a container in my six-year-old son’s room. A day later, they hung upside down, chopped off one of their ends, and built a gold-studded chrysalis so quickly that I missed it every time.

They hung there for two weeks and then five emerged (one never made it) so surreptitiously that we jumped when we noticed large black butterflies hanging, wings closed, in the container. It was a treat to release them: caterpillars and the miracle of metamorphosis are inspiring educative experiences.

For a few days, we could pretend the peacocks nectaring on our garden buddleias were “ours” but soon there were 12 or more, a profusion I had not seen since the 1990s.

Peacocks are now fluttering into houses, sheds and barns, seeking a place to hibernate. Most bed down early, in the coolest, darkest spot. Next March, they will be out again, seeking mates and new nettles on which to lay their eggs.

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