Mourning Cloak Butterfly

By William T. Hathaway

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

During one of those warm early spring days in February or March, did you happen to see a dark-colored butterfly circling around your woodland path area? If so, it may have been the Mourning Cloak Butterfly, flaunting maroon-colored wings with yellow wing margins. These yellow margins become almost pure white as the butterfly ages. Inboard of these wing margins is a series of bright blue spots. At an angle the upper butterfly wings appear to be covered with a subdued silky glitter.

This butterfly emerges from hibernation (to be or become inactive or dormant, in this case, time spent mostly under leaf litter on the forest floor) to flutter about during a break in cold weather — they soon crawl back into their hidden shelter as coolness returns. Also, summertime Mourning Cloaks become less active as the weather turns cloudy but may resume greater activity as the day brightens.

Years ago, when I first observed a Mourning Cloak fluttering about in the month of March, I was astounded to learn that certain species of butterflies could hibernate.



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