Mourning Cloak

Nymphalis antiopa

The Mourning Cloak is a large butterfly, with a wingspan of up to three and a half inches. It is easy to identify by its markings. No other butterfly looks like this one.

Mourning Cloaks are very dark brownish-maroon with pale, cream-colored edges, which often look ragged. They have bright blue spots along the edges. Underneath, the Mourning Cloak's wings are blackish-brown. If you look carefully, you can see some green markings. This butterfly is perfectly camouflaged when it rests on a tree trunk with its wings folded back.

Mourning Cloaks are seen in open woods, parks, gardens, and along the edges of streams, lakes, and ponds.

Adult Mourning Cloaks drink from some nectar plants (like Milkweed and Red Maple), rotting fruit, tree sap (especially oaks), mud puddles, and even animal poop. By visiting flowers for nectar, they help pollinate plants.

Copyright, Paolo Mazzei

Mourning Cloaks mate in early Spring. Females lay eggs on a host plant. A host plant is the plant that caterpillars need to eat. Every butterfly has only certain plants it will eat. Mourning Cloak caterpillars eat willow, American Elm, poplar, hackberry, wild rose, and hawthorns. They are most often seen on Black Willow.

Eggs are laid in groups. They are pale yellow at first. Then they turn red, then black before they hatch.

Once they hatch, Mourning Cloak caterpillars immediately start to eat. Side by side, they eat the leaves of their host plant.

Mourning Cloak caterpillars grow up to two inches long. Theyy are black with red spots down the back and black bristles. Their legs are dark red.

When the caterpillars have reached full size, they will make a chrysalis (coccoon) and enter the pupa (resting) stage. When it is ready, the adult Mourning Cloak will come out.

Bob Parks

Peter J. Bryant

E.T. Jones

Mourning Cloaks are one of the few butterflies that overwinter. That means, instead of dying or flying South, they stay here year-round. Mourning Cloaks do hibernate. They will find a tree cavity, or crawl underneath some loose bark. By overwintering, Mourning Cloaks get a head start over other butterflies in the Spring.

Like most butterflies, Mourning Cloaks are preyed upon by birds and other insect-eating animals.

This insect makes a loud click before it flies away from a resting spot.

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Butterfly Anatomy Diagram
Link to Printable Page
EnchantedLearning.com

Relationships in Nature:

FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Black Willow

Fiery Searcher

Black Willow

Common Milkweed Po

American Elm

Chinese Mantid

American Elm

Bull Thistle Po

Virginia Rose

Green Darner

Virginia Rose

Red Maple Po

Green Hawthorn

Great Crested Flycatcher

Green Hawthorn

Downy Woodpecker SP

Common Milkweed

White-breasted Nuthatch

White Oak

Pileated Woodpecker SP

Bull Thistle

Common Yellowthroat

Mockernut Hickory

Black Willow H

Red Maple

Bigtooth Aspen

American Sycamore

American Elm H

Bigtooth Aspen

Green Hawthorn H

Bigtooth Aspen H

Relationship to Humans:

Mourning Cloaks are very beautiful butterflies, and most people enjoy seeing them. Sometimes they can be a pest. If many caterpillars are eating away at a young tree they could damage it and make it sick.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Insect
ORDER
Lepidoptera
FAMILY
Nymphalidae
GENUS
Nymphalis
SPECIES
Nymphalis antiopa

QUICK LINKS

Organism Menu
Home
Glossary
Student Activities
Relationships
Classification Info
How to Use This Site
Bibliography