Battling Butterflies

When the sun shines and temperatures reach the high 50’s F those butterflies that overwinter in hibernation are stirred into life.  On Wednesday we had those conditions.  After two plus weeks of continuous gales and periods of rain it was a welcome relief.  Driving the four mile round trip to get my daily newspaper I spotted a couple of Brimstones, it just felt like it was going to be a good day.

The back garden is a little sun trap, surrounded by high hedges it is also nicely sheltered.  Movement caught my eye, a Peacock (Aglais io),  got the camera ready and popped outside.  The Peacock was almost unapproachable, it was so full of testosterone (or caffine!).  Anything that ventured into view was immediately chased, the poor old Bumblebees on the winter heathers where getting a hard time!  Enter Peacock number two, all hell breaks loose, the two butterflies join combat and go spiraling upwards till they are so high they disappear from view.  A few seconds later and he is back on the patio!   Then the interloper re-appears and the performance is repeated, again and again!

The cause of all the garden grief, male Peacock

I recorded all five hibernating species in the garden.  Several Brimstones danced along the flower beds and the Comma was back, it might even have been the same one from February it was looking slightly worn.  My first Small Tortoiseshell of the year landed on a daffodil, this would make a lovely image such colours, just about to hit the shutter button when a certain butterfly decided the Tortoiseshell was not welcome!  The Peacock was becoming a bit of a thug.  I did manage to photograph the Comma before it too was attacked.

Is it the returning Comma? Quite possible

It is often hard to imagine something as delicate as a butterfly being violent but several species are well known for their appetite for a fight.  The tiny Green Hairstreak and Duke of Burgundy are very aggressive so too the White Letter Hairstreak.  The champion though is His Imperial Majesty the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris).  This fellow is not satisfied with assaulting his own kind or any other butterfly but will attack birds up to the size of pigeons!

35 thoughts on “Battling Butterflies

  1. Beautiful pictures! They almost look like paintings! Aggressive butterflies – I would never have known. Thank you for the lesson! I have a few pigeons that come into my yard that could use a challenge from a butterfly. The pigeons push the little birds around, so a little aggression towards them wouldn’t be a bad thing. 🙂

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  2. You mentioned it previously, but still hard to believe such delicate creatures have such pent up anger ha. Reads like the Peacock takes on the characteristics of our local Ruby-Throated Hummingbird – small in stature, but will stake claim to a territory and pity the fool that thinks nature is shared. I had to chuckle thinking what would happen if those Peacocks ever got around Ron – attack, attack attack. The Peacock shot is a stunner and I’m totally loving the crisp Comma shots you always get.

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    1. Thanks Brian. I guess being asleep all winter there is a lot of tension to release, it was still at it in the sun today!
      Yep I reckon best to keep Ron out of their sights but it would be worth filming though 😂.

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      1. Oh, great, I just decide to focus on butterflies pictures more this year and learn something about them, and now I have to fear them! That would be the most embarrassing video of them all. I’ll need to carry a large butterfly net and pepper spray just in case. 🙂

        I just looked up the Peacock butterfly and the thing actually hisses when birds attack it! I thought, “OK, it’s only in Europe and Asia,” and then I found out there’s an “American Peacock”, or White Peacock that, while not that closely related, shares its territorial traits. And according to, on July 30, 2015, one of these was reported in Chicago, probably asking about me. Between killer mountain lions, coyotes and butterflies I’m beginning to get worried.

        Beyond all that, those are two beautiful photographs of the Peacock and Comma! Very cool.

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      2. I think you will be safe Ron but you never know if word gets around the animal kingdom.
        I have had the pleasure of butterflies sitting on my fingers licking the sweat to get salts, if this happens to you don’t fear they don’t bite….probably 😬 Seriously though get out there and start photographing them, love to see your different species.


  3. Beautiful photos. We’ve been out today and spotted the same ones as you, several looking a bit battered. The brimstones were teasing me, just wouldn’t settle for a photo.

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  4. I am still amazed at anyone who can capture these beauties on paper.(sorry that is old school)
    Brian – these imagines are stunning.
    Love the fact that the dueling brothers are now thinking that attacking butterflies would make a cool video. Can’t wait for that one!
    I am guessing the weather changed as I travelled to the Midwest. Leaving me to miss the sunny European Spring. You can thank me later.

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