Mourning Cloak

Nymphalis antiopa


Common names include Morning Cloak, White Petticoat, and Grand Surprise. It is called Camberwell Beauty in Britain and is a rare stray from Europe on the island.

This butterfly is found in North America, from south of the tundra to Mexico. Seldom found in Gulf of Mexico regions. It inhabits Europe and has been found in Siberia and Japan.

It is one of the first butterflies seen in the spring, emerging from hiding spots under leaves, rocks, crevises, where it hibernates as an adult. Often spring individuals will look very torn up or worn.

It is thought the Mourning cloak is one of the longest lived butterflies (N.America), with an estimated life of 10 months.

The fresh young are around for a short period and then go into a short summer hibernation (they estivate) before emerging again in the fall for a brief time.

Picture on right taken May 8, 2009.


Wing span: 2 1/4 - 4 inches (5.7 - 10.1 cm).

Caterpillar hosts: Mainly willows (Salix) but also know to use American elm (Ulmus americana), aspen and cottonwood (Populus), willows (Salix), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), and paper birch (B. papyrifera).

Eggs are laid in groups circling twigs of the host plant. Caterpillars live in a communal web. Pupate and emerge as adults in June or July. Older caterpillars may be found wandering around or on non-host plants.

Habitat: Mourning Cloaks are known to be wide ranging and migratory. May be found in nearly any location where host plants occur.

Flight time is April through October/November, with peak numbers in July (for this region) as they young butterflies hatch out.

Picture above left taken August 16, 2008.


Identification points for the Mourning Cloak include the dark body, off white/dull yellow border and the blue spots along the submargin area. It is a distinct butterfly and easily recognised after just a few sightings.

The Mourning Cloak should not be confused with any other butterfly in Wisconsin.

The picture on the right shows an early spring individual. Its yellow border is nearly gone from a rough fall/winter.

Picture taken May 8, 2009. It is a separate Mourning Cloak from the top picture.

Sightings Chart

Colored squares along the x-axis indicate weeks none of this species were seen. Example Aug 16 - 20 show one visit in 2011 with no sightings of the Mourning Cloak.
Chart Accuracy Self Rating: The representative data on the Mourning Cloak is high. This butterfly is easily identified and not hard to see.


TaxonomyMourning Cloak -Nymphalis antiopa   Hodges#4432
Kingdom: Animalia Animals
Phylum: Arthropoda Arthropods
Superclass: Hexapoda Hexapods
Class: Insecta Insects
Subclass: Pterygota Winged Insects
    Order: Lepidoptera Butterflies and Moths
      Superfamily:  Papilionoidea
          Family:   Nymphalidae    Brushfooted
            Subfamily:    Nymphalinae     Anglewing
               Tribe:      Nymphalini
                   Genus:       Nymphalis
                      Specie:           antiopa