Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Butterfly for All Seasons

Last week I did a post on butterflies and their host plants.  Most of the species that I described are ones that we will not see as adults for at least a couple of months.  Many species overwinter as pupae or migrate into Mid-Michigan later in the year, but there is one species to keep your eyes open for now.

The Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) overwinters as an adult and can often be found sunning and even flying in forest clearings during warm days throughout the winter.  It emerges from hibernation early in the spring, often looking a bit tattered, as soon as temperatures will support activity.

Because of this ability to survive through winters, the Mourning Cloak is the one species of butterfly in Mid-Michigan that you are likely to encounter as an adult in all four seasons.  It mates early in the spring so that its larva can take advantage of fresh leaf growth on birch, aspen, elm, and especially willow trees.  The larva mature into adults by June/July and become inactive until fall when they actively feed on tree sap, rotting fruit, and some flower nectar before entering hibernation.

Keep your eyes open for this butterfly, they should be emerging now.

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