The female Peacock Butterfly can lay up to five hundred eggs and within ten days caterpillars hatch out of the eggs. The caterpillars immediately make a communal web of silk so they can live and feed in it collectively.
The caterpillar of the Peacock Butterfly spends most of its time eating so it grows very fast. It sheds its skin about four times because as it grows it can’t fit into its old skin anymore. This process of shedding is called ‘moulting’ and the period between moulting is called an ‘instar’. Instar refers to the stage of development of a caterpillar.
When the caterpillar reaches it final fifth instar, it leaves the communal web to find a safe place to form a chrysalis. The chrysalis is formed by the caterpillar spinning a protective case around itself. The case is often attached to the underside of a leaf. The encased caterpillar uses its hind legs to hang onto a leaf which means it hangs with its head pointing downwards.
The caterpillar encased in the chrysalis is called a ‘pupa’. The colour of the pupa depends where it is attached to. It is a grey colour if it is attached to a bark of a tree and it is a yellow colour if it is attached to a leaf.
From the outside the pupa looks very still, even though a lot of activity goes on in the inside. The spiky black caterpillar transforms itself into a colourful adult Peacock Butterfly. This transformation is called ‘metamorphosis’. It takes twelve days for a Peacock Butterfly to emerge out of its chrysalis.
When a Peacock Butterfly first emerges out of the chrysalis, it opens its new wings and waits for them to harden before it flies off. A male Peacock Butterfly almost immediately establishes its own territory in a sunny spot in a corner of a woodland or hedge. It then enthusiastically defends its territory against other males. However, if a female Peacock Butterfly crosses its path, it pursues the female in the hope that they will mate. If they do mate, they too could have young of their own and so the cycle of life begins again.