Wednesday, March 18, 2009

First Of the Year Butterfly

Now appearing in a woods near you! The Mourning Cloak is the earliest of butterflies to be seen each spring. Yesterday, I noted a dark figure flitting against the backdrop of the naked tree canopy- and knew instinctively it was a Mourning Cloak. It is rare to get a great look at a Mourning Cloak, and rarer still to photograph these stunning colors. Most people never see more than a gray-black blur in flight; it is a butterfly suited for "cloak and dagger" mysteries.

And the biggest mystery is, how do Mourning Cloaks live in the winter? I bet you thought all butterflies go through that life cycle of hatching out of a chrysalis in the spring. When it comes to the life history of butterflies- your elementary teachers usually left the best stuff out! Yes, Mourning Cloaks hibernate as adults, in tree crevasses or log piles and leaf litter, and can emerge for a single warm March day, only to return to hibernation with inclement weather.

But what do they eat? There are no flowers blooming in the woods. Mourning Cloaks nectar at sap and dung. We all know the maple sap is running, and the Mourning Cloaks utilize sap for nectaring sources. They just get more wonderfully specialized by the minute.

Get out there and enjoy nature- even in the very earliest of spring there is much to be seen!

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