Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Winter's Butterfly

While walking along this Monday we were greeted by the sight of a dark-colored butterfly flitting through the forest - in March! Most butterflies and moths overwinter in the chrysalis or cocoon stage. A few, such as the black-and-orange woolly bear, hibernate as caterpillars, but the Mourning Cloak overwinters as an adult butterfly, and is thus the first to emerge in the spring. Occasionally folks who bring in firewood in the wintertime are surprised when a hibernating butterfly wakes up with the indoor warmth and starts flying around their house! Mourning Cloak adults feed on tree sap more than flower nectar, while the caterpillars feed on willow species. (The photo is from wikipedia - the butterfly we saw didn't hold still long enough for me to get a picture!)

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