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Mourning Cloak Butterflies Mating

Often the first butterfly you spot in early spring is the Mourning Cloak butterfly.  Having overwintered as adults under loose bark, Mourning Cloaks are on the wing as early as March.  Due to the lack of nectar-bearing flowers at this time of year, these butterflies seek sustenance from the sap of broken branches.  They are still present in April and May when mating takes place, after which they die.  The next generation emerges as adults in late May or June, feed and then spend July and August in a state of torpor (estivate). They become active in late August or September and again feed before hibernating in the fall. 

Mourning Cloaks are referred to as the longevity champions of the butterfly world, as they live up to ten or eleven months.  The life span of a butterfly varies greatly among species, but on average most butterflies live about a month. (Note ragged edge of wings, due to old age.)

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4 responses

  1. They also over-winter on the ground in the duff of leaves. I sit in my woodland garden and on a warm spring day I have seen the leaves flutter and out comes a Mourning Cloak. I try to get people to use the fall leaves as mulch in their gardens to help Mourning Cloaks. It breaks my heart when I see piles of bagged leaves in early spring as I know there are Mourning Cloaks in those bags! Amy Quinn Ontario, Canada

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    May 20, 2022 at 8:26 am

  2. Bunny Wescott

    when do they pupate? the mourning cloaks.

    May 20, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    • They mate now, lay their eggs and pupate mid- to late May before emerging in late May/early June.

      May 22, 2022 at 8:46 am

  3. Alice

    I’d love to see some…we have lots of woods & piles of leaves…maybe someday….

    May 23, 2022 at 9:33 am

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