Butterflies in the Snow

Shagbark Hickory by Jennifer SchlickEver since I learned that Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis antiopa) overwinter as adults, I’ve searched for them (without success) in winter behind the loose bark of the hickories in a nearby woods.

I mentioned Wednesday that Mourning Cloaks treated me to a display of their courtship dances and even settled down to bask in the sun long enough for me to snap a few shots including this one:

Mourning Cloak by Jennifer Schlick




This morning I woke up curious about what the other stages of the Mourning Cloak life cycle look like… and thanks to the magic of the Internet found some wonderful websites with fantastic photos.  Links within the text below will take you the home page of the websites where I found the information.  Clicking on the photos will take you to the specific page that contains Mourning Cloak information and pictures.


Mourning Cloak Laying Eggs from University of California WebsiteThe University of California at Irvine has a site on the Natural History of Orange County. It is loaded with great information and beautiful photos on many topics, including the Mourning Cloaks in all stages of development, including all five instars of the caterpillar.  The egg picture at left is from their site.  The eggs darken over time and become red-colored.

Mourning Cloak Caterpillar from Nature Museum WebsiteThis caterpillar picture comes from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, Illinois.  The page that includes Mourning Cloak information also includes brief facts for other butterflies that can be found in the Chicago area.  The chrysalis below also comes from the Nature Museum website.

Mourning Cloak Chrysalis from NatureMuseum WebsiteThe most comprehensive text on the Mourning Cloak life cycle, written so even kids can understand, I found at NatureNorth.com, an online nature magazine from Manitoba, Canada. Seriously. There is no need for me to tell you a thing about this butterfly. Just click on over to NatureNorth!  I didn’t borrow a picture from them, so click here for the Mourning Cloak page.

I marvel every day at how the Internet has revolutionized learning.  How quickly I was able to find what I was looking for!  And now that I have a search image in my brain, my eyes will be scanning the woods for Mourning Cloaks in all stages of their development.  I hope I’m more successful than I was at finding an adult in winter!

Mourning Cloak Range MapUpdate (4/19/08):  I’m adding one more link and a map for Montucky.  You should be finding them where you live.  Wake up!  Pay attention!

This map is from the Butterflies and Moths of North America website.  It’s a pretty cool website, though I don’t understand why they have not included Canada as part of North America.  I guess they should have called it the Butterflies and Moths of the US and Mexico…  Hmmm….

7 thoughts on “Butterflies in the Snow

  1. We used to see Mourning Cloaks everywhere when we were little kids. Now I hardly ever see them and I wonder, habitat loss or host plant loss??

    P.S. I like your new picture Jennifer–did you cut your hair?

  2. Ruthie – No haircut. It’s an older picture when I was just starting to let my hair grow… I have this dream of a long gray braid. So far, my hair is neither long nor gray. I suspect it will get gray. But I don’t know if it will ever get long…

    Cis – Steal away!

  3. This was such an interesting post. Here I thought I knew all the cool stuff about this butterfly and you whip up this post. Incidentally just yesterday I was on top of the “hill” at the Lockport nature trail and there were dozens of Mourning Cloaks flying all around me. I just sat on the bench and enjoyed them while I ate my granola bar. It’s far to much work to chase them 🙂

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