Is it true that but­ter­flies can hiss?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q & A - Lau­rie Jackson

One at least. The pea­cock over­win­ters as an adult, in­creas­ing its chances of en­coun­ters with preda­tors. It re­lies on cam­ou­flage to sur­vive, the drab, dark­ened un­der­sides of its scal­loped wings liken­ing it to a dead leaf. If the mas­quer­ade fails, the pea­cock will re­vert to in­tim­i­da­tion tac­tics, open­ing its wings in an ex­plo­sion of hues. In­cluded in the dis­play are four large eye­spots, which give the im­pres­sion of a large bird and have been shown to de­ter in­sect-eaters such as blue tits.

But the pea­cock doesn’t stop there. An­gling it­self to­wards its at­tacker, it flicks its wings, pro­duc­ing a se­ries of rasps and clicks as the veins rub to­gether. This ‘hiss de­fence’ is so ef­fec­tive that it makes even mice re­treat. Such a di­verse ar­ray of anti-pre­da­tion tech­niques gives the pea­cock a de­cent chance of sur­viv­ing the win­ter.

Pea­cock but­ter­flies are prone to hissy fits when preda­tors get too close.

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