New Jersey Butterflies

Mourning Cloak

Nymphalis antiopa

Identification: Medium—3.0". Above: FW and HW very dark, velvety brown with prominent, wide, pale-yellow border on both wings, and a row of small blue spots inside the yellow border. Below: Finely striated dark brown, with grayish border along both wings that is visible only at fairly close range. Distinctive flap-and-glide flight.

NJ Status and Distribution: Resident. Fairly common and widespread throughout.

NJ Range Map-Mourning Cloak

Habitat: Deciduous woodland. Often encountered along trails and on bare ground and roads.

Flight Period: One brood. Overwintering adults emerge in March (or even February), mate, lay eggs, and die. Their offspring emerge in early July and fly into December, sometimes with a pause for aestivation in the heat of summer. Extreme dates: North Jersey 2/16—12/16; South Jersey 1/6—12/25.

Larval Food Plants: A wide variety of broadleaf trees, including willows (Salix); aspens, poplars, and cottonwoods (Populus); elms (Ulmus); birches (Betula); and hackberry (Celtis).

Overwintering Stage: Adult.

Best Locations: Delaware Water Gap NRA, Wildcat Ridge WMA, Whittingham WMA, Kittatinny Valley SP.

Comments: After a long winter of butterfly fasting that we in North Jersey have to endure, it is exciting to see the first Mourning Cloak flapping and gliding along a forest trail. This and Eastern Comma are usually the first species seen in North Jersey.

Mourning Cloak

Crater Lake Rd., Sussex Co., NJ, 7/12/07.

Mourning Cloak

Wildcat Ridge WMA, Morris Co., NJ, 6/30/06.

Mourning Cloak

Hibernating in rotten log, East Brunswick, Middlesex Co., NJ, 12/8/13.

Mourning Cloak larvae

Larvae on Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana).

Mourning Cloak


Trembling Aspen

Leaves of Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides). This upland tree is one of many host plants for Compton Tortoiseshell, Mourning Cloak, and Red-spotted Purple.