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Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

Mourning Cloak butterfly
Habitat: Wetlands, forest edges, parks, and along waterways Garden Abundance: Low Wingspan: 2.5 to 4.0in Range: Larval Host Plants: Weeping willow (Salix babylonica), Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), black willow (Salix nigra), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) and elms (Ulmus spp.) Favorite Adult Nectar Sources: Prefers rotting fruit and sap over most flower nectar

Surviving the winter as adults, mourning cloaks often become active at the first hint of mild weather and may occasionally be seen flying around while snow is still on the ground. Named for its dark coloration, the mourning cloak is more a welcome reminder of approaching spring than a symbol of passing. A difficult butterfly to approach, it is a swift and strong flier. At rest, the mourning cloak is still elusive as its drab, bark-like underwing coloration provides expert camouflage. Rarely pausing at flowers, this butterfly prefers rotting fruit, tree sap, carrion and animal dung.

Found practically throughout the entire U.S., the mourning cloak is a common resident of moist habitats where its larvae feed on elm and willow. The dark spiny caterpillars are gregarious and can often be found feeding in very large numbers.

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