It was a delightful surprise last week to discover two Mourning cloak butterflies (Nymphalis antiopa) feeding on my common milkweed blossoms. I was happy they stayed long enough for me to get my camera.
One soon flew away, but the other allowed me to get good views of the under and upper sides of its wings. I can see how the upper side could resemble a traditional cloak that was worn when one was “in mourning,” hence the name.
I find it interesting that while most adult butterflies live two to three weeks, Mourning cloaks live for about ten months. They emerge in summer, overwinter in woodpiles or under bark, then mate and lay eggs in early spring. Since their wings were in such good condition, I’m guessing my visitors were born this year.
According to what I read, Mourning cloaks are common though not abundant throughout North America. I have seen them twice before – once in Glacier National Park and once in Tennessee. I’m glad to add them to my list of backyard butterflies.