Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Camberwell Beauty, Grand Surprise, and White Petticoat

Nymphalis antiopa

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The Mourning Cloak is a remarkable butterfly known for its velvety wings that resemble a traditional cloak worn during mourning. It’s one of the most widespread and easily recognizable butterflies in North America.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

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The Fact Sheet!

Common Name
Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Other Names

Camberwell Beauty, Grand Surprise, and White Petticoat

Latin Name

Nymphalis antiopa

Distribution

This butterfly is found in North America, Europe, and Asia. It has a broad range, from the cold arctic regions to the warmer parts of North America.

Appearance

Caterpillar: Spiky black body covered with white speckles and a row of bright red spots running down the back. Butterfly: Dark maroon wings with a ragged yellow border and a row of iridescent blue spots.

Size

Wingspan ranges between 2.25 to 4 inches. The caterpillar can grow up to 2 inches in length.

Habitat

Various environments, from woodlands and forests to parks and even suburban areas.

Diet

Caterpillar: Feeds primarily on the leaves of trees like willow, elm, poplar, and hackberry. Butterfly: Prefers tree sap, especially oak. It also consumes rotting fruit and, less commonly, flower nectar.

Lifecycle

Egg → caterpillar (larva) → chrysalis (pupa) → adult butterfly. One unique trait of the Mourning Cloak is that adults overwinter, emerging in spring to mate.

Communication

Mourning Cloaks, like other butterflies, primarily use visual and chemical cues for communication. Males often set up territories and will perch on tree trunks or sunlit areas on the ground, driving away other intruding males.

Defense Mechanisms

Caterpillar: The spiky appearance and bright colors serve as a warning to potential predators of their unpleasant taste. Butterfly: Its dark wing coloration offers excellent camouflage against tree trunks, especially when overwintering. The bright edges may also serve as a warning or distraction.

Ecological Importance

They are essential for pollination, albeit less reliant on flowers. Their larvae are also a food source for various predators, thereby contributing to the food chain.

Conservation Status

The Mourning Cloak is not considered endangered and is common across its vast range.

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The Fact Sheet!

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