- A common name for this species, mourning cloak, refers to its resemblance to a traditional cloak worn when one was mourning the death of a loved one. The scientific name is derived from both Latin and Greek; Latin: Nymphalis - of, or pertaining to a fountain , Greek: Antiopa - wife of Lycus, King of Thebes.
- It may appear that this butterfly only has four legs , but this is not the case - it has six, only the front pair are greatly reduced, appearing hairy and brush like. This is the reason members of this family , the Nymphalidae, are commonly known as "brush-footed butterflies".
- The Mourning Cloak is Montana's state butterfly.
Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in Dutch:
Common Names in English:
Mourning Cloak, Camberwell Beaty, Camberwell Beauty, Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Mourningcloak, Mourningcloak Butterfly, Spiny Elm Caterpillar
Common Names in French:
Chenille épineuse De L'orme, Morio
Common Names in Serbian:
'The Nymphalidae are members
of the Superfamily
Papilionoidea, the true butterflies. Distributed worldwide, butterflies of this family
are especially rich in the tropics. They are highly variable, and there are more species in this family than in any other. Adults
vary in size from small to large, and their front legs
are reduced, unable to be used for walking. Wing
is also highly variable: some species have irregular margins
(anglewings and commas), and others have long taillike projections (daggerwings). Browns, oranges, yellows, and blacks are frequent colors, while iridescent
colors such as purples and blues are rare. Adults of some groups are the longest-lived butterflies, surviving 6-11 months. Adult feeding behavior depends on the species, where some groups primarily seek flower nectar while others only feed
, rotting fruit, dung, or animal carcasses. Males exhibit
behaviors when seeking mates. Egg-laying
varies widely, as some species lay eggs
in clustsers, others in columns, and others singly. Caterpillar appearance
and behavior vary widely. Brushfoots overwinter
as larvae or adults.
Brushfoots are the most prevalent members of the Family Nymphalinae. Distributed worldwide, this is a diverse group that contains several tribes , each with somewhat different structural and biological features. Adults of North American species are predominantly orange, brown, and black. Wing shape and mating systems are variable. Most checkerspots and crescentspots patrol for mates, while the remainder of groups exhibit either perching or perching and patrolling . Migration varies widely; some strong migrants are found in the lady butterflies, tortoiseshells, and anglewings, while other species are local in occurrence. Most species limit their host plants to a few species, but the Painted Lady has one of the widest host palettes of all butterflies. Eggs are laid singly or clustered in groups, and caterpillars be found feeding alone or communally. Brushfoots overwinter as young caterpillars or hibernating adults.
Species Nymphalis antiopa
One of the most widespread and beautiful species in the hemisphere,
Nymphalis antiopa contradicts much standard
butterfly behavior. Easily
identified, the dorsal surface is a deep plum-purple, bordered
a single row
of bright blue dots and yellow margins
butterflies, bright in newly emerged ones). The edges
of the wings
are sharply angular. The mourning cloak³ appearance
with other species unlikely.
Short projections on both wings, borders irregular. Upperside is purple-black with a wide, bright yellow border on outer margins, and a row of iridescent blue spots at the inner edge of the border. (ref. 105968)
: 2 1/4 - 4 inches (5.7 - 10.1 cm).
The approximate life span for most butterflies in the United States is from four days to two weeks. The mourning cloak is the longest-lived of North American butterflies, some individuals living as long as 10 months.
Adults over-winter in hibernation (usually in hollow trees ) and emerge on warmer winter days to feed on tree sap or, if available, fermented fruit. Like all insects, it is cold-blooded, but warms itself by seeking sunlight, basking with its dark wings open to absorb warmth. When the temperature rises , the photosensitive butterfly moves into the shade, closing its wings to reduce heat absorption . The seemingly blind prediction—that the butterfly flying over the snow is a mourning cloak—has foundation. What about the claim that it’s a female? The species name , antiopa, was given to the butterfly by Linnaeus, who named a lot of things in the 1700s and who was one of the species’ keenest observers . Antiopa was queen of the Amazons, a tribe of women in Greek mythology. Of course Linnaeus may have picked the name for some other reason, but only in the past 10 years have studies shown that mourning cloaks that live through the winter are exclusively female.
Because Mourning Cloaks roam and migrate, they are found almost anywhere
that host plants
occur including woods
, openings, parks, and suburbs;
and especially in riparian
Most individuals are seen inside or along the margins of hardwood forests . Migrants, however, may be seen flying across roads and other open country. Mourning Cloaks are often seen flying through forests that do not have full leaf cover -- early or mid-spring before leaves have completely emerged, or October when leaves are beginning to drop. They may be seen along forest trails and dirt roads through forests, but they are not typically found in open country. (ref. 104710)
Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 2,500 meters (0 to 8,202 feet).
Caterpillar hosts: Willows including black willow (Salix nigra),
willow (S. babylonica), and silky
willow (S. sericea); also
American elm (Ulmus americana), cottonwood (Populus deltoides), aspen
(P. tremuloides), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), and hackberry
(Celtis occidentalis). Older caterpillars wander about and may be
found on plants
that they do not eat. Adult
Cloaks prefer tree
, especially that of oaks. They walk down
to the sap and feed
downward. They will also feed on rotting
fruit, and only occasionally on flower nectar.
The foodplants are various trees and shrubs -- willows, birches, elms, cottonwoods, etc. The species does not normally nectar at flowers; instead, it feeds on sap, decaying fruit, moist spots on trails and roads, and so forth. (ref. 104710)
mate in the spring
, the males perching
openings during the afternoon to wait for receptive females. Eggs
are laid in groups circling twigs
of the host plant. Caterpillars
live in a communal
web and feed
together on young leaves, then pupate
as adults in June or July. After feeding briefly, the
adults estivate until fall
, when they re-emerge to feed and store
energy for hibernation. Some adults migrate south in the fall.
Later in the spring, after leaves have turned green and the chrysalis in the classroom has hatched, butterflies of all descriptions are visiting flowers and mud puddles—all but the mourning cloak. There is a spring hiatus when adults are rarely seen. Before she dies, the female has laid her eggs on one of several host plants such as black willow, aspen, cottonwood, or stinging nettle.
Hatched caterpillars are black with several rows of spines, a row of red spots down the back, and white specks along the sides. Mature larvae undergo a quick metamorphosis in the chrysalis (two to four weeks) and emerge as adults. The second of two broods emerges in late summer or early fall. It is then, when the butterflies of summer have begun to fade in color and die, when leaves have begun to turn and the new school year is about to begin, that the mourning cloak is freshest and most beautiful.
Flight: Usually one flight from June-July.
Flight period: This butterfly has the longest life-span (brood) of any species in the eastern United States, up to about 11 months. The species overwinters as an adult , with these butterflies on the wing on warm winter days, but mainly from mid-February to mid-June, when worn individuals are seen. The new brood is on the wing from mid-May into mid-June downstate, and until mid- or late July in the mountains. Adults then aestivate during the summer, and then fly sporadically in fall (generally October). Some dates refer to migratory individuals. (ref. 104710)
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- A.M.A. Aguinaldo et al., 1997 ex T. Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Latreille, 1829
- Snodgrass, 1938
- Heymons, 1901
- Order: Lepidoptera () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - Butterflies and Moths
- Superorder: Panorpida ()
- Cohort: Myoglossata ()
- Infraclass: Pterygota ()
- Subclass: Dicondylia ()
- Epiclass: Hexapoda ()
- Superclass: Panhexapoda ()
- Infraphylum: Atelocerata () - Heymons, 1901
- Subphylum: Mandibulata () - Snodgrass, 1938
- Phylum: Arthropoda () - Latreille, 1829 - Arthropods
- Superphylum: Panarthropoda () - Cuvier
- Infrakingdom: Ecdysozoa () - A.M.A. Aguinaldo et al., 1997 ex T. Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Protostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Name Status: Accepted Name .
Members of the genus Nymphalis
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 10 species and subspecies in this genus:
N. antiopa (Mourning Cloak) · N. californica (California Tortoiseshell) · N. californica herri (Herr's Tortoise Shell) · N. milberti (Milbert's Tortoiseshell) · N. milberti milberti (Milbert's Tortoiseshell) · N. polychloros (Blackleg Tortoiseshell) · N. polychloros polychloros (Blackleg Tortoiseshell) · N. urticae (Mountain Tortoiseshell) · N. vaualbum (Compton Tortoiseshell) · N. xanthomelas (Yellow-Legged Tortoiseshell)
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Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 26, 2008:
- Biologiezentrum der Oberoesterreichischen Landesmuseen: Biologiezentrum Linz
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fredericton Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, St. Johns, Newfoundland
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Alan Wormington Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Atlantic Forestry Centre Insect Reference Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Butterflies and Skippers of Alberta Project
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Canadian National Collection (CNC) of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Crispin S. Guppy Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Crispin S. Guppy Observational Records
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Donald F. Hooper Butterfly collection, Canada
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: E.C. Manning Park Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Gerald Hilchie Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Great Lakes Forestry Centre Insect Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Jeff Ogden Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Lepidopterists Society Season Summaries 1973-1997
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Lyman Entomological Museum
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: M. Gollop Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: McMaster University Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Memorial University Department of Biology Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: New Brunswick Museum Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Norbert Kondla Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Northern Forestry Centre Arthropod Collection, Edmonton
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Subenacadie, NS, Canada
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Point Pelee National Park Collection, Canada
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Provincial Museum of Alberta
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Ross A. Layberry Observations
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Royal British Columbia Museum Entomology Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Royal Ontario Museum: Entomology
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Royal Saskatchewan Museum Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: Spencer Entomological Museum
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: University of Guelph, Department of Environmental Biology
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: University of New Brunswick Collection
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: University of Saskatchewan
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility: University of Western Ontario Collection
- European Environment Agency: EUNIS
- Finnish Museum of Natural History: Hatikka Observation Data Gateway
- GBIF-Spain: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid; Lepidópteros
- GBIF-Sweden: Bugs (GBIF-SE:Artdatabanken)
- GBIF-Sweden: Lepidoptera (Observations)
- GBIF-Sweden: Lepidoptera (Specimens NRM)
- Illinois Natural History Survey
- inatura - Erlebnis Naturschau Dornbirn
- Institute of Environmental Sciences UJ: Lepidoptera of Cracow City
- Institute of Nature Conservation PAS: Bumblebees, cuckoobees and butterflies
- Natural History Museum, University of Oslo: Norwegian Lepidoptera collection, Oslo
- Nicolaus Copernicus University of Torun: The Distribution Atlas of Butterflies in Poland
- SysTax: Lobbecke Museum Dusseldorf
- The Danish Biodiversity Information Facility: ConDidact public insect surveys (danske-dyr.dk)
- UK National Biodiversity Network: Highland Biological Recording Group - HBRG Lepidoptera dataset
- University of Alaska Museum of the North: Kenelm W. Philip Lepidoptera Collection
- University of Helsinki, Department of Applied Biology: Lepidoptera collection of Hannu Saarenmaa
- University of Helsinki, Department of Applied Biology: Lepidopterological Society of Finland
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 2603037
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: Lep-157445.0
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 5112368
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 188597
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: IILEPK6030
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 16157
- http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/taxonomy?f=18&sci=Nymphalidae&com=Brush-footed Butterflies [back]
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- New Mexico Wildlife. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Version of April 24, 2009. [back]
- Mean = 203.300 meters (666.995 feet), Standard Deviation = 297.440 based on 6,479 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]