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Mourning Cloak Caterpillars Pupating

Having overwintered as an adult, the Mourning Cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) is one of the first butterflies seen in early spring.  Mating takes place and eggs are laid in a cluster encircling a twig of a willow, cottonwood, elm, birch or hackberry tree.  The hatching caterpillars stay together until they move off their host plant to pupate, which is what is happening right now and why you can find these distinctive spiny black and red caterpillars at this time of year. Adult Mourning Cloaks emerge in midsummer, enter a state of dormancy until fall and then seek a sheltered spot in which to hibernate until spring. 

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3 responses

  1. Huh. Once again, very interesting. But the life of the adult sounds singularly boring – dormancy through the youthful part f their adulthood, and then six months of winter! – unless you consider the challenge of somehow making it through the winter to be exciting…
    (How/where do they overwinter?)

    June 25, 2021 at 9:41 am

  2. Alice

    It’s such a miracle, what caterpillar markings look like & then the butterfly, or moth.

    June 25, 2021 at 9:57 am

  3. Bill on the Hill

    Had one in the driveway just yesterday licking the salt off the gray stone, whilst the sun lit it up nicely…
    Bill… :~)

    June 25, 2021 at 10:10 am

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