Mourning Cloak - Nymphalis antiopa

This summer, I have been seeing high numbers of Mourning Cloak butterflies in and around our yard. Some years I don't recall seeing them at all. Last year it was all about Red Admirals, but this year their numbers seem low and the Mourning Cloaks are having their moment. 

I don't know much about butterflies, but I am trying to learn more, and I find them surprisingly difficult to paint well. At the very least I am trying to plant native flowers that encourage their visiting my yard. Seems to be working, because I have noticed a nice variety over the last couple of summers. 

Both Red Admirals and Mourning Cloaks apparently belong to a family of butterflies referred to as "Brushfoots". Adult Mourning Cloaks can be longer lived than other butterfly species, topping out around 10 months. They hibernate through the winter and are one the first butterflies species to emerge in the spring to mate. The larvae like elms, hackberries, and cottonwoods; trees that we have a lot of in our neighborhood. 

Happy Monday to you : )


  1. That looks a really interesting butterfly, we have at last had quite a few butterflies around over here. I think they have been missing for years, but in this recent hot weather they have popped up? I managed to re-route some caterpillars today, they were on a path which cyclists use and I managed to get about 5 or 6 back in the grass verge, they looked like your caterpillar above, but I'm sure they weren't. :)

  2. Yes, they are really elegant butterflies. I don't know enough to know how weather affects butterfly numbers, but our problem on this side of the pond is pesticide use. Cities like mine will spray during the summer nights for mosquitos, especially now that West Nile virus is a concern. It's good at controlling mosquito populations, but does have detrimental effect on other pollinators, such as butterflies. Good on you for caterpillar rescue!

  3. How make me want to paint butterflies. Thank you for sharing your lovely work!

  4. Thank you Sherri! - You should try, although I will attest it is more difficult to render them well than one would think!


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