Bug of Week 9: Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Mourning Cloaks are one of the first butterflies to show up in the spring, and have distinctive markings which make them easy to differentiate from other butterflies. You may notice that these butterflies appear to only have four legs, while insects are supposed to have six. Mourning Cloaks have six legs, but two are very small and hairy at the front of their abdomen.

Please be gentle and respectful to all animals and insects.

Species Nymphalis antiopa

HABITAT (WHERE THEY LIVE): Mourning Cloaks can be found in all of North America and also parts of Europe and Asia. They roam and migrate, settling in areas that contain host plants like woods, parks, and suburbs.

NUTRITION (WHAT THEY EAT): Tree sap (especially from oaks), rotting fruit, and occasionally flower nectar.

PREDATORS (WHO EATS THEM): The Mourning Cloak's eggs can be eaten by predators like beetles, ants, wasps, and mites. The butterflies' predators include praying mantises, dragonflies, birds, and assassin bugs.

LIFE CYCLE: In early spring, Mourning Cloaks lay their eggs on a host plant, which includes willow and elm. The eggs hatch into caterpillars, which live in a communal web and feed on young tree leaves. Caterpillars form a chrysalis and emerge as adult butterflies in June or July.