Lepidoptera in Winter

Argyrotaenia pinatubana Pupa InsideOccasionally during my winter walks my eye is drawn by signs of butterflies or moths.  I wrote about one of them in early December, which, technically, was still fall, though there was snow!  The Pine Tube Moth overwinters as a pupa inside a tube constructed by the larva from pine needles.

Not all butterflies and moths do the same…

Monarchs migrate.

Wooly BearBaby Isabella Tiger Moths spend the winter as larva.  You might know them as Wooly Bears.  (I remember the first time I discovered this.  I was cross-country skiing near a building that had overlapping shingle siding.  I watched a Chickadee fly to the side of the house and return to a branch with a Wooly Bear in its beak.  I ponder to this day:  How did that Chickadee know to find that caterpillar in that exact spot?  X-ray vision, perhaps?)

Moth InsideI’ve been walking by a cocoon the last few days.  I don’t know what kind of moth is inside.  It’s quite the elaborate shelter, though, isn’t it?  I’d love to find the larva one day in the process of making this.  (If you know of the video on YouTube, please tell us in your comment!)  Do you know the maker of this cocoon?

Gypsy Moths overwinter as eggs:
Gypsy Moth Eggs

Look for Gypsy moth eggs on the bark of trees.  Slip your glove off and pet them gently.  It’s one of the softest things in the forest!  (P.S. click here for a picture of a female adult laying the eggs.)

Mourning Cloak by Tom LeBlancAnd I wrap this up with a photo “borrowed” from Tom (a.k.a. Mon@rch):

The Mourning Cloak butterfly overwinters as an adult, tucked in behind loose bark, or holed up in a tree den…  And I look for them every winter… And I have yet to find one…  (There’s GOT to be one somewhere behind some of that Shagbark Hickory bark I walk past nearly every day!)

The Mourning Cloaks will start appearing in early spring… or maybe in late winter if it is mild enough… So keep your eyes open!

So much variety in nature… It never ceases to amaze me.

Ooooh!  Update (3/17/08).  Here’s a great picture of a butterfly in winter:

I don’t know the species.  But it seems to thrive in snow!

13 thoughts on “Lepidoptera in Winter

  1. Looking at your cocoon . . . I do agreee with swamp4me that it does look like one of the Silkmoth’s but not familiar enough with a cecropia to know if it’s that species of moth!

  2. I cast a vote fro cecropia, too. (about 3 inches long of dead leaves?)
    We found a similar cocoon years ago and kept it on our back porch–one day we woke to find her, fully fanning her wings on the back screen door. She was a lovely cecropia.

  3. Wow Jennifer, I realize how truly UN-observant I am after reading your posts. Now I have some more interesting things to look for the next time I’m out hiking in the woods.

  4. The photo of the gypsy moth eggs scares me. I have been keeping an eye out for them on our land. Forests within a few miles of here have been deforested by the moths. I only hope our woods survive because we are surrounded by farmlands. Interesting post–I will be out looking for cocoons!

  5. I’ve wondered how the different species wintered – particularly those early risers in the spring. Thanks for the information … now let’s hope for an early spring so we can start searching!

  6. Pingback: Did you ever notice… « A Passion for Nature

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