Posts Tagged ‘Camberwell Beauty’

I spotted a beautiful Mourning Cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa) this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park and suspect that it recently emerged. I always thought of  Mourning Cloaks, which are apparently known as Camberwell Beauties in Great Britain, only as an early spring butterfly, because I knew that they overwinter with us as adults.

After doing a little research, I learned that the hardy winter survivors mate in the early spring and then die. The eggs turn into caterpillars that pupate and the new butterflies emerge in June or July. After briefly feeding, the butterflies will enter into a state of dormancy (called aestivation) for the summer. I must confess that I was not familiar with the word “aestivation” when I first ran across it and had to look it up. As far as I can tell, it’s the summer equivalent of hibernation. Last year I remember learning the word “brumation,” which is a hibernation-like state that helps turtles survive in the mud during the winter. Who knew there were so many hibernation-type states?

In the fall, the Mourning Cloak butterflies will go on a real feeding frenzy to store up energy for the long winter. It’s amazing to realize that these butterflies have a life span of 10 months, which is an eternity in the insect world.

Mourning Cloak

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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