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Old 11-12-2011, 02:58 PM   #1
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Default Mourning cloak butterfly Chicago November 12

It has been cold the last couple of nights, reaching a brief frost one night. But today is sunny and warm (for November) so I have been outside doing chores and admiring autumn in the garden. Wind and rain has stripped colorful leaves from many of the shrubs and trees this week and there are plenty of them. Wood piles, brush piles and a few downed branches that were damaged in past storms and fell this week were on the agenda. Breaking up branches and stacking into yet another brush pile along the back fence was the main clean-up for I do not want to disturb any creatures finding winter haven within the garden.
To my surprise a butterfly flew past me. I did not see where it came from but of course began to watch, then follow. No camera in hand, darn. Could I risk running inside to grab the camera? It was sunning for periods of time but not long and in this garden if it moved at all it would be well camouflaged. But I could not get close enough to study without sending it flying. So I ran for the camera...it was gone when I returned.

So, the butterfly was dark winged with a yellow edge. Looked very much like a mourning cloak. It was the right size.
Mourning cloaks over winter in the adult stage in the north, often in wood or brush or under tree bark or even in leaf litter.

They do not eat nectar but use tree sap and dung moisture and even rotting fruit for food as adults. They use trees and some shrubs like willows as caterpillar host plants.

I wish I had a picture to show you but I can see it still. Everyday is an adventure...lol.

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Old 11-12-2011, 05:11 PM   #2
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Nice to be able to see a butterfly in November in the north! The mourning cloak is one of the longevity champions of the butterfly world. They live 10 - 11 months as an adult.

In addition to their winter hibernation they also have a 'summer hibernation' period called aestivation. In July and August they find a safe place to hide and go into a summer dormancy.

They accomplish their cool weather flight through two different means of thermoregulation. The first method is "shivering". They use their thoracic muscles, contracted synchronously rather than alternately, to generate heat in the thorax. Alternate contraction is what they use to fly.

The second method is sun bathing, but it's a little different process than is commonly thought. Heat gain can be accomplished by exposing as much as possible of the body to the sun [typically while sitting on a branch]. Heat gain is also achieved by directing the heat trapped below the widespread wings, tips pressed to the ground, to the thorax [typically while sitting on the ground]. The amount of head gained by the very slow circulation of the haemolymph through the wing veins is very small. The type of basking used by the mourning cloak is referred to as dorsal basking.

All in all, a very interesting butterfly, and a great experience to see them in late fall and very early spring.
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Old 11-12-2011, 05:30 PM   #3
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Very interesting!
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Old 11-12-2011, 06:40 PM   #4
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What a great sighting Gloria. Thanks for sharing.
Your garden must be have achieved a very butterfly friendly status.
Wonderful to see success after all your hard work.
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:42 AM   #5
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Can you believe this weather? 50 degrees yesterday. Green grass and evening moths fluttering about!
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Old 11-13-2011, 10:01 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by havalotta View Post
Can you believe this weather? 50 degrees yesterday. Green grass and evening moths fluttering about!
I was lying in the hammock at sundown last night (with a jacket on), and I swear I saw a mosquito!
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:31 AM   #7
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Cool Gloria! I'm sure your brush piles are working to harbor many creatures over winter, perhaps the Mourning Cloak is one of them.

Wow dap, a mosquito, really??? And you just had a snowstorm, go figure!

I've seen a few stray sulphurs and skippers lately, but not many.

We've been working on staining the deck for the last 3 days, dodging the bouts of rain and freezing temps at night is tricky this time of year. We had our first frost October 29th. Highs are in the 60s, today is expected to reach 70 but the winds are 20 to 30 mph out of the south, gusting to 40. No butterfly would be out and about in those conditions. Hopefully the remaining ones that overwinter are safely tucked in somewhere for the duration.
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:54 AM   #8
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I was lying in the hammock at sundown last night (with a jacket on), and I swear I saw a mosquito!
Would this be she?
Mourning cloak butterfly Chicago November 12-july-dscf8979-2-.jpg
I was wondering when and where I could work her in....
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:49 AM   #9
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I could do without that mosquito dapjwy and havalotta.
I still have 3 black swallowtail caterpillars outside I'm hoping will make it to the next stage and overwinter. Just a few more days of warmish weather (fingers crossed).
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Old 11-14-2011, 09:40 AM   #10
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I found a HUGE Cecropia cocoon hanging about two feet off the ground.
Our 5 year old grandson wanted to take it home with him but I encouraged him to let it be and we'll check on it in the spring.
Later in the day he took grandpa in to see it and the little smarty pants confessed with a great big smile he "touched" it.
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