Overwintering Adult Woodland Butterflies

We've seen two woodland butterfly species in the last week emerge. The first is the Mourning Cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa), a harbinger of spring. It's dark brown coloration with cream edging blends with the brown leaves and landscape in early spring.

These butterflies overwinter as adults in late fall under logs or leaf litter in woodlands. Another great reason to leave leaf litter in your garden or landscape.

These butterflies can be spotted on warm spring days on the ground warming their bodies in the sun. They mate right away in spring, the caterpillars emerge and feed on Willows (and other tree species). You will see adults again in late fall as they prepare to overwinter. (Butterflies Through Binoculars)

The other woodland butterfly common in early spring is the Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma). Like the Mourning Cloak, these butterflies overwinter as adults.

Caterpillars emerge in late May - early June and feed on Nettles and Elm trees. These butterflies are very similar in appearance to the Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis). Look for either the "comma" marking or "question mark" marking on the underside of the wings. These butterflies are also abundant in late fall, perching on rocks in the late afternoon to absorb the day's heat.