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Butterflies that Overwinter as Adults

With all the warm weather this week, butterflies are suddenly appearing out of nowhere. Unlike most butterflies, which typically spend the winter as eggs or pupae (inside of chrysalises), red admirals, mourning cloaks and eastern commas (pictured) simply slip out from behind loose bark, where they overwintered as adults, and take to the air. Those species of butterflies which spent the winter as eggs or pupae must undergo metamorphosis this spring, and won’t appear in their adult form until later in the year. With so few wildflowers out now, especially this year, sap from broken tree branches sustains early-emerging butterflies!

7 responses

  1. Thanks Mary! Very interesting. Do you know any moths that do the same?


    March 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    • My knowledge of overwintering moths is very limited, I’m afraid…I know that there is a species of moth (“winter moth,” Operophtera brumata) that emerges in Nov. or Dec., mates, lays eggs and dies. There are moths that I am aware of that overwinter the entire winter as adults, including the Herald Moth and the European Corn Borer Moth, and there are probably many more, but I don’t know their identity!

      March 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm

  2. This is GREAT, Mary. We were seeing several eastern commas on Tuesday as we were taking down buckets in the sugarbush, and I don’t recall having seen them so often before.
    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog. It’s like you help to identify the galaxies that swirl around us that so few give attention to. Thank you!

    March 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm

  3. P.S. Gorgeous photo, by the way…

    March 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm

  4. Libby

    Hi…I”ve also seen the Comma feeding on the chicken manure pile, so I wonder if it is a carrion feeder, as are some other butterflies such as the satyrs?

    March 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    • Right you are! Both Question Marks and Eastern Commas feed on rotting fruit, mud, scat and carrion as well as tree sap. I’m not sure about Mourning Cloaks and Red Admirals.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm

  5. I thought this was going to be about grammar! Much more fun!

    March 24, 2012 at 3:40 am

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