Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

May 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

Nymphalis antiopa goes by the name Mourning Cloak in North America and Camberwell Beauty in Britain. The name for this butterfly in several European countries with Germanic languages, translates as “mourning cloak”. Other names for this butterfly is Grand Surprise, White Petticoat, Harbinger of Spring. The upperside of its wings are dark brown, with a wide bright yellow border on outer margins, and a row of iridescent blue spots at the inner edge.

The Mourning Cloak is generally considered a butterfly of woodlands. Some migrate south during fall, and during migration it can be found in almost any habitat.  After September, they go into hibernation. Overwintered adults can be seen flying very early in spring. After hibernation, the colour of the butterfly may change, the yellowish white becomes paler, almost completely white, and the dark brown wings turn near black.

Preferred food is tree sap, especially that of  oak trees. They feed head downwards, walking down the trunk to the sap. They will also feed on decaying fruit.

Antiope was the daughter of the “nocturnal” king Nycteus, king of Thebes. Antiope’s beauty attracted Zeus who took her by force, disguised as a Satyr. Both the species name antiope and the generic Nymphalis creates a tautonym, as both names allude to mythological beauty.

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§ 2 Responses to Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

  • aubrey says:

    ‘White Petticoat’ makes perfect sense, as the white/cream trim on the wings looks like the hem of a petticoat peeking from under a dark skirt.

    • M says:

      I prefer the positive connotations of “White Petticoat”. When I first saw an image of this butterfly I thought it was soo pretty and thinking of a petticoat reinforces that thought… But having get used to “mourning cloak” I get more of a gloomy, dull feel to seeing the butterfly. What’s in a name? Clearly a lot :)

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