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. It is 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 gives the wings a lovely contrast. Blue spots above this yellow edge are easiest to see in young butterflies.
Adults are most active in the spring, summer, and sometimes autumn (if a second generation is born in that year). It is one of the few species that hibernates overwinter. This means it is also one of the earliest butterflies seen in the spring. It prefers sunny areas near running water. Streams, creeks, and fountains near open meadows or gardens are good places to find one in flight. It is well-adapted to urban areas as well as the wild so it can also be seen in parks, backyards, and business parks.
The caterpillar of the Mourning Cloak Butterfly 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 also feeds on the leaves of elm, cottonwood, birch, hackberry and poplar trees.
Scientific Name: Nymphalis anitopa
Other Name(s): Spiny Elm Caterpillar
Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 73mm to 86mm (2.85in to 3.35in)
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
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.