Mourning Cloak!

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)January 25, 2013

The weather has been warm - in the mid-70's now - so I've been picking up sticks and limbs in the woods, and when I went up front to unload my wheel barrow, a dark, medium-sized butterfly with yellow edging on the bottom of its wings flew straight up in an open area to my left. I didn't see the blue dots and I couldn't see a burgundy sheen, but it has to be a mourning cloak. The only other butterflies I know of with yellow edging are gold rims/polydamas swallowtails, and I don't think it's likely one would come all the way from south Florida to our colder climate. I imagine this individual was escaping the cold up north!

I know it's no big deal to see a mourning cloak to those of you in the northern states, but it's been ten years since I've seen one here. As I recall, it was late fall when I saw the other one, and it flew straight upward like this one did. Maybe that's a typical mourning cloak flight pattern? I wish he or she would stay here and a mate would show up. We have plenty of willows for them. My range map shows my area as being the southernmost limit, so that's undoubtedly why they're so rare here.

I didn't have my camera with me, but I'll keep it in my pocket when I go out from now on! It's supposed to be mild for at least another week.

Anyway, I wanted to share the news with people who I know will appreciate seeing a rare (for me) butterfly!


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Wow, that's exciting, Sherry! In January, yet!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 4:21PM
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Tony G(5a)

Congratulations Sherry! In the suburbs of Minneapolis I saw a lot more Mourning cloaks than usual last season. However, I didn't see ANY in our garden last year. I saw them flying around town and in a wooded area I walk the dog. The plant I see them nectaring from most often is common milkweed.

They are usually the first butterfly I see each season so they must be tucked away close by. Hopefully, they are surviving our subzero temps! Enjoy your early butterflies, Tony

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 8:42PM
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They are always a great find here in Madison. I see one or two every year, but they are not common. I have seen them in northern Wisconsin, and also in the upper peninsula of Michigan. I don't think they migrate, but I could be wrong on that.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 8:50PM
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yeah, how fun for you! Last year, I saw lots of mourning cloaks, as they were enjoying the watermelons that the rabbits had eaten holes in.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 8:16AM
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Mourning Cloaks aestivate during the winter in Oklahoma, coming out on sunny days to enjoy the weather and possibly some mineral salts in the dung and sap, etc. They are the longest living butterfly, surviving for approx. a year before they die.

Last year they were in abundance here, too. I had about 9 at one time on the fruit feeder. Such beauties, and they are not shy at all. Easily approachable for photos and observation.

Congrats, MissSherry! I recall your saying that you had not seen one in a long, long time. I don't see them every year either, but they are not here during the heat of the summer, either flying North for cooler weather or aestivating once again.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 9:09AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Now that you mention it, I remember reading about their long life spans, Susan. So, I don't see why they couldn't lay eggs here. I've got two small willows in my garden, one in a pot, that they could use this spring, and willows are common on wet, sunny sites.

I'll just keep hoping, everybody! :)


    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 10:29AM
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MittenGirl(5 NW MI)

I found this beauty on one of my butterfly bushes this past fall. I had not seen one before and quickly ran inside to grab my camera. It had been pretty cold for a while at this point so I was not seeing any of the regulars.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 4:14PM
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MittenGirl(5 NW MI)

The inside of the wings.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 4:20PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Wow! What gorgeous pictures of beautiful butterflies, Mittengirl! I think I'll go outside now and see if I can luck up on that mourning cloak again.

What are those butterfly bushes? Is the magenta one Miss Ruby or Miss Molly? Is the blue one Ellen's Blue?


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 5:07PM
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Beautiful photos of the MC! I think these are one of our most beautiful butterflies. They can be huge in size, too!

They lay their eggs in clutches on the stems of their host plant trees, including willow, Hackberry, Elm, Birch, Poplar, including Aspen and Cottonwood, etc.

I hope you find some, MissSherry! I'd love to hear about you raising them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Mourning Cloak Life Cycle images

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 9:27PM
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MittenGirl(5 NW MI)


The pink is a "Miss Molly" and the blue is an "Ellen's Blue". I have stalked this forum for years admiring everyone's gardens, and gathered advice for my own. I am happy to say that I stumbled on your pictures of your very own "Ellen's Blue" and decided I must have one! That was almost two years ago. I am some what of an addict when it comes to butterfly bushes. I buy them when they are on sale/clearance, and have been known to give them to anyone that wants one.
I have SO MANY wonderful butterfly and hummingbird photos, but need to find and easier way to re-size them. I am on a MAC and there is no re-size available in my photo editing application.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 5:20PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Sherry, you may find eggs on Wild Cherry. They seem to prefer that to Willows here in my area. I am seeing more and more MCs around.

On another note, I have purchased a small house on 2 and 1/2 acres near one of my favorite butterfly spots. Didn't go looking for property, but this came up and is what I've always dreamed of. And the price was very reasonable. My mom had left me some money that I've held on to, thinking about how I would invest it. So I consider myself blessed. Can't wait to plant a butterfly meadow on part of the land. One of my friends has named the place, "Blueberry Hill", as it sets up on a hill and I'll be growing blueberries there. It's only 20 minutes from our house, and a half mile from a beautiful lake. There is a pond that abuts up to my property on the back side. The hill is called Leonard Mountain by the locals, and is near the Arkansas River. The gophers and moles have taken over the land. It needs more trees, but there are two Post Oaks on the property that are over 100 years old. There is lots of outdoor work to do, but I am so looking forward to it. So at the age of 65, I'm realizing a dream I've had my whole life! There are Mourning Cloaks in the area, so hopefully, I will get some. I will have lots of wildlife including bluebirds, etc. Almost called it Bluebird Hill. But I like what the song says, "I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill."

And the property has a chicken coop, a garden plot, fruit trees, a work shop, and a pole barn. The neighbors are far enough away, we can't hear each other; but close enough that I don't feel totally alone.

Just had to share!


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 6:05PM
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I see Cloaks around my yard and on the road in front of my house.Most of the time they are just sitting on the ground in the sun on bare spaces.When
Approached they do seem to fly sort of straight up and will land on the ground again not too far from their former position.They remind me of the
Red Admiral butterflies that way.Other than that,they will circle the rather
Small open clearing behind my house flying abt 10 feet up among the mixed trees before departing the area for the woods with understory.I have
Never seen them nectar at flowers.The clearing is mainly just floored with
Leaves a lot of the time,no grass.I guess the Cloaks just like the woods
Or maybe they go down to the Cypress swamps where the willows live.
They have always been one of my favorite butterflies because the top wings are so pretty and surprising when they suddenly open.
Oh,I sent you an email recently but I am not sure you got it.I think I am
Not doing some of my emails right...

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 6:21PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I didn't get an e-mail from you DD. By the way, what part of Alabama do you live in? If you're in south Alabama and have mourning cloaks as regularly as it sounds like, that's encouraging to me!

Sandy, I'm so happy for you getting your new house with the great land!! It sounds like it'll be a lot of work, but the work will be a labor of love. I've never regretted moving to the country and building our house on our 5 1/2 acres, just wish we'd moved sooner! My neighbor situation is like yours, close enough that we're not totally alone, but still out in the country.
And it's funny that you mention wild cherry, I was just thinking that I should get some seedlings this spring - they make jillions - and pot them up to plant out. I've got a few areas open enough to plant them.

Kenesha, I've been wanting a Miss Molly, it's just a matter of finding a good place to plant it. My Ellen's Blue is my favorite butterfly bush of all.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 9:15PM
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Sandy, the house sounds beautiful and very fitting for you, my friend!

Hopefully (..and I know you will) there will be loads and loads of butterfly (and moth) friends that come to visit.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 10:10AM
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Tony G(5a)

Miss Sherry, I like the Ellen's blue up in Minnesota because it attracts different butterflies than my other bb species. The monarchs won't touch it, but it attracts RSP's and I think there was a mourning cloak on it last year....I will go through my backed up photos tomorrrow and post if I find it. I take so many photos I sometimes forget what I have :) Tony

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 9:43PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I was hauling some sticks to the pick up place and saw the mourning cloak in the very same area! It basked in the gravel, which is also the spot that my road admirals always prefer. 'Don't know what it is about this gravel, but I'm keeping it, won't pave the road. By creeping up slowly, I was able to make one picture after the other. I had to put the zoom on my camera, so it's not very good, but at least you can see my mourning cloak!

I've also been seeing the usual bucket loads of Carolina satyrs, plus a few cloudless sulphurs and sleepy oranges.

I'm going to read up on mourning cloaks. I've got two small willows, but plenty of wild black cherry, so I'm crossing my fingers for eggs and caterpillars one day!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 5:27PM
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Congrats on the Mourning Cloak:) Hope to see one up here by the end of the month.
They're one of the first butterflies out, since they hibernate here.
They love a nice warm area to bask in, plus a few minerals from the ground.
They'll also come to bananas and mangoes in Butterfly feeders.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 6:00PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I'll have to put out some fruit for it, Leafhead. Usually, when I put out fruit all I get is flies, but I'll try again. It's exciting to get a new butterfly!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 7:02PM
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You'll also benefit other butterflies, such as Commas, Q-Marks, Red Admirals and other butterflies that don't usually come to flowers first.
My problem is that I always end up feeding possums, too..
Oh well, lots of bananas and mangoes this year....

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 10:02AM
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