Creepy Crawlies with Christy 042017

Creepy Crawlies with Christy 042017

By Christy Pitto

For The Independent

mourning cloak collage sm sd mourning cloak collage sm sd

Going on the theory that it will eventually be spring here in the Upper Rogue, this week let’s meet one of its earliest harbingers; the Mourning Cloak butterfly. Lots of folks think the common name is “Morning” cloak, but there’s no denying the fab black upper wing of this early spring butterfly does look like a mourning cloak of old.

In Brittan they are called “Camberwell Beauties” a more uplifting common name. In Latin they are Nymphalis antiopa. By any name they are gorgeous, mysterious butterflies.

If you’ve ever wondered why you often see them flitting about, but never see them sitting prettily on flowers; here’s the secret: they don’t drink flower nectar. As adults mourning cloaks prefer oak sap, or in a pinch, rotting fruit.

So when we get sun again (and surely we will?) look to the trees. Also look to the trees for their spotty, spiky caterpillars, and Don’t Panic! The caterpillars live in communal webs, don’t mistake them for some of the more harmful web-dwelling caterpillars. Mourning cloak kids munch on willow or elm.

Older caterpillars wander and may be found on other plants while they look for a place to morph into a cocoon. They’ll hatch out in mid to late summer and overwinter as adults, so they can be early risers the following spring.