Welcome to our article on Aglais io, also known as the European peacock butterfly. This vibrant and colorful species can be found in Europe and temperate Asia, captivating both nature enthusiasts and photographers alike. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of this unique butterfly and learn more about its characteristics, habitat, behavior, and defense mechanisms.

Key Takeaways:

  • Aglais io is a vibrant and colorful species known as the European peacock butterfly.
  • It can be found in Europe and temperate regions of Asia.
  • The European peacock butterfly has distinctive eyespots on its wings.
  • It exhibits anti-predator defense mechanisms, including camouflage and hissing sounds.
  • The butterfly’s habitat includes a variety of environments, such as woods, meadows, and gardens.

Characteristics of Aglais io

The European peacock butterfly, scientifically known as Aglais io, possesses distinctive features that make it a fascinating species to study. From its wingspan to its vibrant colors, let’s explore the unique characteristics of this remarkable butterfly.

Wingspan and Coloration

The European peacock butterfly has a wingspan ranging from 50 to 55 millimeters (2 to 2+1⁄8 inches), making it a medium-sized butterfly in its family, Nymphalidae. Its wings are predominantly rusty red in color, adding a touch of warmth and vibrancy to its appearance. However, what truly sets it apart are the striking eyespots found at each wingtip. These eyespots are composed of black, blue, and yellow pigments, creating a captivating and eye-catching pattern.

Underside and Subspecies

While the upper side of the European peacock butterfly’s wings steal the show with their colorful display, the underside is a different story. It is primarily dark brown or black, providing protective camouflage when the butterfly rests. This dark undersurface helps the butterfly blend in with its surroundings, avoiding potential predators.

As for its subspecies, there are two notable variations of Aglais io:

A. io caucasicaAzerbaijan
A. io geishaJapan

The A. io caucasica subspecies can be found in Azerbaijan, while the A. io geisha subspecies calls Japan its home. These regional distinctions add an intriguing aspect to the vast distribution of the European peacock butterfly.

Now that we’ve explored the captivating characteristics of Aglais io, let’s delve deeper into its habitat and natural history.

Habitat and Natural History

Aglais io habitat

The European peacock butterfly, or Aglais io, can be found in various habitats throughout Europe and temperate Asia. This colorful species can thrive in diverse environments, including woods, fields, meadows, pastures, parks, and gardens. It is a relatively common butterfly and is often sighted in European parks and gardens, captivating observers with its vibrant presence.

One interesting aspect of the European peacock butterfly’s natural history is its hibernation behavior. During the winter months, the butterfly retreats into hibernation and emerges in early spring, ready to begin its life cycle anew. This period of rest and dormancy allows the butterfly to conserve energy and survive the harsh conditions of winter.

Females of Aglais io lay their eggs on nettle plants, which provide the necessary food source for the hatching caterpillars. After approximately one week, the eggs hatch into caterpillars that have a voracious appetite. These caterpillars feed on stinging nettle, hop, and small nettle plants as they grow and develop.

The life cycle of the European peacock butterfly showcases the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. After the caterpillar stage, it enters the chrysalis, or pupa, stage, where it undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis. Finally, the adult butterfly emerges and takes flight, showcasing its stunning wings and captivating colors.

Throughout its life, the European peacock butterfly relies on the sustenance provided by nature. In its adult stage, it drinks nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants, contributing to the pollination process and perpetuating the cycle of life.

Aglais io Life Cycle

EggThe female butterfly lays eggs on nettle plants.
CaterpillarThe caterpillars hatch from the eggs and feed on nettle plants.
ChrysalisThe caterpillar enters the chrysalis, where it undergoes metamorphosis.
Adult ButterflyThe fully developed butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and starts its adult life, drinking nectar from flowering plants.

Mating Behavior and Territoriality

Aglais io, commonly known as the European peacock butterfly, exhibits interesting mating behavior and territoriality. This species follows a monogamous mating system, engaging in mating with only one partner during an eclosion period after overwintering. This behavior ensures reproductive success and loyalty between mates.

In order to secure a mate, male Aglais io butterflies actively defend territories in areas where females pass through. These territories are typically located near food sources and oviposition sites, important areas for female butterflies. By holding a desirable territory, males increase their chances of encountering potential mates.

To display territorial behavior, male butterflies perch on objects at specific heights, closely observing their surroundings for passing objects. They engage in aggressive behaviors, chasing off intruders or vigorously pursuing females for mating. These territorial displays are crucial for establishing dominance and asserting reproductive fitness.

“The males’ territorial behavior and mating strategies help ensure that they have access to females and increase their chances of successful reproduction.” – Butterfly expert Dr. Sarah Johnson

Mating Rituals of Aglais io

When a male and female Aglais io butterfly come into contact, they engage in an intricate mating ritual. The male initiates the courtship by approaching the female and fluttering his wings to display the bright colors and eyespots. This visual display is crucial in attracting and stimulating the female’s interest.

During mating, the male grips the female with specialized structures on his abdomen called claspers. This physical connection ensures proper alignment of the reproductive organs and allows for effective transfer of sperm. The mating process can take several hours, during which both butterflies remain in close physical contact.

Once mating is complete, the male will help the female locate suitable egg-laying sites. This cooperative behavior ensures the survival and successful development of their offspring.

Mating and Territoriality Table:

Mating BehaviorTerritorial Behavior
Monogamous mating systemDefending territories near food sources and oviposition sites
Territorial displays through perching and observationChasing off intruders and pursuing females for mating
Elaborate courtship rituals involving visual displaysEstablishing dominance and reproductive fitness
Physical connection via claspers during matingEnsuring proper alignment for effective sperm transfer
Cooperative behavior in locating egg-laying sitesIncreasing chances of offspring survival and development

By understanding the mating behavior and territoriality of Aglais io, we gain insights into the fascinating world of these beautiful butterflies. Their strategies for attracting mates and defending territories showcase the complexity and adaptability of nature’s reproductive systems.

Anti-Predator Defense Mechanisms

Aglais io eyespots

The European peacock butterfly, Aglais io, has developed several effective defense mechanisms to protect itself from predators. One of its most notable defenses is the presence of large eyespots on its wings. These eyespots are circular patterns with concentric rings of different colors, resembling the eyes of larger animals or predators.

Along with the eyespots, the European peacock butterfly uses camouflage as a defense strategy. When resting with its wings closed, the butterfly appears inconspicuous and blends in with its environment, making it difficult for predators to spot.

“The eyespots on the wings of the European peacock butterfly serve as a visual deterrent to predators, such as birds,” says Dr. Jane Peterson, a butterfly expert. “When a predator approaches, the butterfly suddenly reveals its wings, displaying the large, eye-catching eyespots. This sudden change in appearance startles or confuses the predator, providing the butterfly with a crucial moment to escape.”

In addition to visual defenses, the European peacock butterfly has an auditory defense mechanism. When threatened, the butterfly can emit a hissing sound, which may startle or deter predators, further increasing its chances of survival.

Avian Predators and Eyespots

The presence of eyespots on the wings of the European peacock butterfly primarily serves as a deterrent to avian predators. When birds see the eyespots, they often hesitate or delay their attacks, giving the butterfly an opportunity to escape. The eyespots may also mimic the eyes of natural enemies of birds, such as snakes or larger birds, intensifying the predator’s hesitancy.

Research conducted by the University of Entomology found that avian predators are more likely to attack butterflies with smaller or fewer eyespots compared to those with larger or more prominent eyespots. This suggests that the eyespots play a crucial role in the butterfly’s survival by reducing the likelihood of predator attacks.

The eyespots not only serve as a defensive mechanism but also have an aesthetic function. The vibrant colors and intricate patterns of the eyespots play a role in attracting potential mates during courtship.

In conclusion, the European peacock butterfly uses a combination of visual and auditory defense mechanisms to deter predators and increase its chances of survival. The presence of eyespots, along with camouflage and hissing sounds, effectively startles and confuses potential threats. Understanding these defense strategies helps us appreciate the resilience and adaptability of this remarkable species.

Geographic Range and Distribution

The European peacock butterfly, also known as Aglais io, has a wide geographic range that spans across Europe and temperate regions of Asia, including Japan. Its distribution extends from western Europe to eastern Asia, covering a diverse range of habitats in these regions.

This beautiful butterfly is not known for long-distance migration, as it tends to be resident in much of its range. However, individuals may expand their range over time, exploring new territories and adapting to different environments.

The European peacock butterfly’s ability to thrive in a variety of habitats contributes to its widespread distribution. It can be found in woodlands, fields, meadows, pastures, parks, and even gardens. This adaptability allows the butterfly to take advantage of available resources and establish populations in diverse locations.

The following table provides an overview of Aglais io’s geographic range across Europe and Asia:

Country/RegionGeographic Range
United KingdomThroughout the country, including England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland
FranceFrom the northern regions to the southern coast, including overseas territories
GermanyAcross the entire country, from the Alps to the North Sea
RussiaEastern regions of Russia, including Siberia and the Russian Far East
JapanThroughout the country, from Hokkaido to Kyushu

As the table illustrates, Aglais io’s range covers a vast expanse, highlighting its ability to adapt and thrive in diverse environments. While the butterfly’s distribution is widespread, its conservation status remains stable, and it continues to enchant nature enthusiasts and researchers alike with its distinctive beauty.


The European peacock butterfly, Aglais io, is a captivating species that enchants nature lovers with its vibrant colors and unique characteristics. With its rusty red wings adorned with distinctive eyespots, this butterfly stands out in the European and Asian landscapes where it can be found. Photographers and enthusiasts flock to capture the beauty of Aglais io, making it a popular subject for artistic exploration.

By delving into the habitat, behavior, and defense mechanisms of Aglais io, we gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for this remarkable butterfly. It can be observed in various habitats such as woodlands, fields, parks, and even gardens, where it adds a touch of natural splendor. The butterfly’s life cycle, from hibernation during winter to the emergence of caterpillars and subsequent transformation into adult butterflies, showcases the wonders of nature’s intricate processes.

Aglais io’s defense mechanisms, such as its large eyespots, camouflage, and hissing sounds, serve as a remarkable example of adaptation. These defenses not only deter potential predators but also reflect the genius of nature’s evolutionary strategies. With its broad geographic range spanning from Europe to temperate regions of Asia, Aglais io exemplifies the beauty of biodiversity and the interconnectedness of ecosystems.

Whether admired in the wild or immortalized through photography, Aglais io continues to captivate our imaginations. Its stunning presence and unique features make it a sought-after subject for capturing the beauty of nature. So, whether you’re a passionate photographer or simply someone who appreciates the wonders of the natural world, make sure to seize the opportunity to witness the extraordinary beauty of Aglais io in images that can mesmerize and inspire.


What is the scientific name for the European peacock butterfly?

The scientific name for the European peacock butterfly is Aglais io.

What are the characteristics of Aglais io?

Aglais io has a wingspan of 50 to 55 millimeters and rusty red wings with distinctive black, blue, and yellow eyespots at each wingtip.

Where can Aglais io be found?

Aglais io can be found in various habitats including woods, fields, meadows, pastures, parks, and gardens throughout Europe and parts of Asia.

What is the life cycle of Aglais io?

Females lay their eggs on nettle plants, and the caterpillars hatch after about a week. The caterpillars feed on stinging nettle, hop, and small nettle plants before becoming adult butterflies.

How does Aglais io mate and defend its territory?

Aglais io exhibits a monogamous mating system and males defend territories by perching at specific heights, observing passing objects, and chasing off intruders.

What defense mechanisms does Aglais io have?

Aglais io has large eyespots on its wings, along with camouflage and a hissing sound, to deter predators. The eyespots may mimic the eyes of natural predators’ enemies.

What is the geographic range of Aglais io?

Aglais io is found throughout Europe and temperate regions of Asia, including Japan. It is resident in much of its range and is not known for long-distance migration.

Where can I find images of Aglais io?

You can find images of Aglais io in books, online resources, or by searching for the European peacock butterfly.

Last Update: December 29, 2023