About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Warmer spring weather wakes black and yellow butterfly

The sunshine has awakened the Mourning Cloaks. These beautiful butterflies got their morbid sounding common name because their dark coloring resembles a traditional cloak that used to be worn when someone was in mourning. From above, they are a dark brown and black butterfly with a row of periwinkle spots around the edges of the wings that are trimmed in yellow.

Adult mourning cloak butterflies emerge from beneath tree bark after winter hibernation and seek mates in the spring. Males will perch in sunny areas and wait for females to flutter by. After a brief aerial courtship the pair will mate. The females lay 30-50 eggs together on a single tree or shrub and die soon after.

Caterpillars emerge from eggs after about 10 days. They live in a communal web and feed together on young leaves, then pupate and emerge as adults in June or July. After feeding briefly, the adults estivate (sleep until fall), then they re-emerge to feed and store energy for winter hibernation. Some adults might migrate south in the fall.

Mourning Cloaks prefer tree sap, especially that of oaks. They walk down the trunk to the sap and feed head downward. They will also feed on rotting fruit, and only occasionally on flower nectar.

Source: Butterflies of Michigan by Jaret C. Daniels
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