Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nymphalis antiopa - Mourning Cloak Butterfly AKA Camberwall Beauty

A couple of weeks ago I saw my first Mourning cloak of the summer.
It seems to be licking the petals of the coneflower.
So many butterflies are attracted to coneflower.
Bug Guide tells me that it is known as the Camberwall Beauty in the UK.  It is a beauty, sure enough.  Don't you love those blue dots along the wing margins?
It is in the genus of Tortoiseshells.  The adults mostly feed on tree sap and rotten fruit.  Occasionally, as seen here, they do partake of nectar.
It has an odd life cycle, at least in my limited experience.  It overwinters as an adult, quite a feat for an insect in this climate.  Eggs are laid on young twigs of host trees like willow, river birch, and cottonwood that are found along rivers. The caterpillars live in communal webs and eat the young leaves of the host tree.  The first generation adults emerge in early summer, feed briefly, and then estivate until autumn.  I am pretty sure that the individuals I have seen are the re-emergent adults trying to fatten up before over-wintering.  They may even have a short migration south to over-winter in a less drastic climate than what we have here in Minnesota.  Not a bad idea at all.  ;-)
Posted by Picasa

6 comments:

  1. It is a beauty and shows really well in the last photo.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great shots of this beautiful species Wilma.

    ReplyDelete
  3. John and Roy - thank you and glad you like it. Have either of you seen its UK counterpart?

    cheers,
    Wilma

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wilma, there has been a distinct reduction in butterflies this year and I have certainly seen much less of the small Tortoiseshell than normal, a species that normally is very common.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've only heard of them Wilma. Never seen one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Roy - that is too bad about the decline. Climate change seems to be altering the distribution of butterflies here - perhaps that is affecting yours too?

    John - maybe one day, eh?

    cheers,
    Wilma

    ReplyDelete

Blog Readers -- your comments are invited. I would love to hear from you.