Nymphalis antiopa
Mourning Cloak

Family Description:

Caterpillar: The caterpillar is black, covered with tiny white dots and marked with a row of orange spots along the back. It has several rows of black branching spines. The prolegs are red. It can reach a length of 2 inches.
Adult: This is a large butterfly, with a wingspan of 2 to 4 inches. It is purplish black on the upperside, edged with a wide yellow border, and marked with a row of blue spots just in from the border. The edges of the wings appear irregular or ragged, with several short projections extending from them. Underneath is grayish black, appearing much like dark tree bark. The underside of the wings is bordered with yellowish gray, with a row of bluish chevrons just in from the border.

This species occurs throughout North America and northern South America. It can be found everywhere in Idaho.

It can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including woodlands, gardens, suburbs, and along rivers and streams.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed primarily on the leaves of deciduous trees, including willow (Salix spp.), elm (Ulmus spp.), cottonwood and aspen (Populus spp.), birch (Betula spp.), and hackberry (Celtis spp.).
Adult: Butterflies feed on tree sap (especially oaks (Quercus spp.)), fruit, and occasionally flower nectar.

There is usually one generation of caterpillars each summer, but there may be as many as three in some locations. Caterpillars feed together in groups, sometimes defoliating trees. Mature caterpillars pupate mid- to late summer; adult butterflies emerge, feed, then estivate (enter a sort of summer hibernation) until autumn. In autumn, butterflies feed again before overwintering in a physiological state called diapause. Butterflies emerge in spring to mate, and may be one of the first observable spring species. Adults generally fly from March to June and from September to Novemeber. Some butterflies may migrate instead of hibernating in the fall.

Males perch to wait for receptive females. Females lay eggs in groups in a single layer, occasionally on leaves and more often encircling twigs of host plants.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank:

G5; populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/bflyusa.htm (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.  Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.