The peacock caterpillars in the nettles in Simpson’s Field are growing fast.

[1] Nettles are the preferred food plant of peacock caterpillars and this is where the female butterfly lays her small green eggs [2] in batches of anything up to 500, sometimes several layers deep.

[3] The newly hatched caterpillars spin a web around the top of their nettle and feed inside it until it is time to moult their skin [4] for the first time.

They leave this nest peppered with the skins they have shed and move on [5] in search of another nettle [6]; here they spin another nest web.

The developing caterpillars leave a trail of deserted webs [7] behind them and with each new instar [8] become more independent of the group and less dependent on the shelter of the web.

In their final instars, the caterpillars [9] leave their sibling group and feed by themselves. They look for sturdy stems as pupation sites; this pupa [10] is hanging head-down from a nettle stem.

The adult butterfly, large and colourful, hatches from the chrysalis after 12 – 14 days. Peacocks are nectar feeders and spread right through the park in search of flowers; you will see them in our hay fields on any sunny day.

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