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Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis anitopa)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Mourning Cloak Butterfly.

 Updated: 6/28/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The dark, velvety wing of the Mourning Cloak Butterfly helps warm this sun-loving species after a long winter's nap.



The Mourning Cloak Butterfly has very short front legs, like all its Brush-Footed kin. They are covered in short hairs akin to the bristles on a hair brush. The dominant black color almost completely covers the wings, but a bright yellow edge offers a nice contrast. Blue spots above this yellow edge are easiest to see in new butterflies.

Adults are most active in the spring, summer and sometimes autumn (if a second generation is born in that year). They are one of the few species that hibernate overwinter. This means they are also some of the earliest butterflies seen in the spring. They prefer sunny areas near running water. Streams, creeks and fountains near open meadows or gardens are good places to find them in flight. They are well-adapted to urban areas as well as wild so they can be seen in parks, backyards and business parks.

The caterpillar feeds on willows. It is almost completely black with several black bristle clusters on its body. Small white and red spots line the body. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of willow, elm, cottonwood, birch, hackberry and poplar trees.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
          Genus: Nymphalis
            Species: anitopa
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Nymphalis anitopa
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 73mm to 86mm (2.85in to 3.35in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, white, brown, yellow, blue, red
Descriptors: flying
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.




Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
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Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
6
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.