mourning cloak

(Nymphalis antiopa)

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

S5 - Secure


not listed

mourning cloak
Photo by Greg Watson

Mourning cloak is a large, dark, brushfooted butterfly. It has a wingspan of 2¼ to 4.

Young butterflies are reddish-brown above with a wide yellow border at the outer margin and conspicuous, iridescent blue submarginal spots. The underside is dark, striated brown with a wide white border at the outer margin. Older individuals in May and June are dark brown above with a wide cream to yellow border at the outer margin and less conspicuous submarginal spots.

The caterpillar is black with much white flecking, a narrow black line down the center, 2 rows of red spots, and numerous long, shiny, black spines.



2¼ to 4 wingspan


Similar Species

Unmistakable. No similar species.


Wherever host plants are found



Mid March to Mid October. One brood emerges in June or July.





Life Cycle

This is usually the first butterfly seen in the spring because most adults overwinter. It is also one of the longest lived butterflies in Minnesota, living up to 10 months.

Caterpillars live in a communal web.

After the new brood emerges in June or July they enter a period of dormancy (estivate) similar to hibernation. They fly again in September and October.

Most adults hibernate in the winter in hollow logs, wood piles, and loose bark. Some adults migrate south in the fall.


Larva Hosts

Young leaves of mostly willow, but also plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides var. molinifera), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), American elm (Ulmus americana), paper birch (Betula papyrifera var. papyrifera), and northern hackberry (Celtis occidentalis).


Adult Food

Mostly oak and maple sap, but also other tree sap, rotting fruit, and occasionally flower nectar. Often found at sapsucker holes in the spring.


Distribution Map



4, 7, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 71, 75, 82, 83.






Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)


Papilionoidea (butterflies)


Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies)


Nymphalinae (checkerspots, anglewings, peacocks, and allies)


Nymphalini (ladies, anglewings, and allies)


Nymphalis (tortoiseshells)


Subordinate Taxa

There are five or six subspecies of Nymphalis antiopa depending on the source. Though the species is very well known, the exact distributional boundaries of the subspecies are largely unknown. The subspecies in Minnesota is probably lintnerii, but it could be hyperborea, or both could be in the state.

mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa ssp. antiopa) (southwest)

mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa ssp. asopos)

mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa ssp. borealis)

mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa ssp. hyperborea) (Alaska)

mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa ssp. lintnerii) (eastern U.S.)

mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa ssp. yedanula)



Aglais (Nymphalis) antiopa

Euvanessa antiopa

Euvanessa chlapowskia

Euvanessa intermedia

Nymphalis grandis

Nymphalis grisescens

Nymphalis longomaculata

Nymphalis obscura

Nymphalis violescens

Nymphalis virescens

Papilio antiopa

Vanessa albomarginata

Vanessa angustata

Vanessa antiopa

Vanessa artemis

Vanessa dorfmeisteri

Vanessa emma

Vanessa epione

Vanessa escheri

Vanessa flavomaculata

Vanessa hippolyta

Vanessa hygiaea

Vanessa hyperborea

Vanessa lintneri

Vanessa nana

Vanessa obscura

Vanessa ochraceoguttata

Vanessa pompadour

Vanessa roederi

Vanessa thomsonii

Vanessa ziegleri


Common Names

camberwell beauty (UK)

mourning cloak

mourningcloak butterfly

spiny elm caterpillar (larvae)









Enter a period of reduced metabolic activity in the summer, similar to hibernation.























Visitor Photos

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Honey Fae (Farah)

mourning cloak    

Greg Watson

mourning cloak    

Molly and Robert Power

mourning cloak    

Drinking maple sap from a tap hole we drilled earlier this year


Alfredo Colon

mourning cloak   mourning cloak

Tom Baker

mourning cloak   mourning cloak
mourning cloak   mourning cloak Photos
mourning cloak   mourning cloak
mourning cloak   mourning cloak
mourning cloak   mourning cloak
mourning cloak    




Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Andree Reno Sanborn

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Nymphalis antiopa

Nymphalis antiopa (Mourning Cloak)
Allen Chartier

Nymphalis antiopa (Mourning Cloak)

Mourning Cloak butterfly
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

Mourning Cloak butterfly

Mourning Cloak

Mourning Cloak

Mourning Cloak - Nymphalis antiopa


Published on Jan 26, 2014

Nymphalis antiopa



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

The flight of the Camberwell beauty (Nymphalis antiopa).
Filming VarWild


Published on Oct 20, 2013

An extract of a documentary about the Camberwell beauty (Nymphalis antiopa). Discover the life-cycle of this magnificent and difficult butterfly to approach. All the different states of the cycle have been filmed, from the hatching of the egg up to the transformation into a chrysalis and finally the liberation of the butterfly itself in fabulous natural scenery.

For more information visit our website Filming VarWild.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis Antiopa)


Uploaded on May 28, 2009

A special treat is in store for you as you witness Mourning Cloak Caterpillars dance to Indian flute jazz.

[HD] Nymphalis antiopa


Published on Aug 27, 2012

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) is easy to identify because of its unique wing markings. The distribution of this species is covering almost all over Eurasia and North America. In Japan this species is confined to the mountains. It appears from middle August when other butterflies have already been worn. Flight is swift and glaceful. It rarely visits flowers, it is usually attracted by tree sap, rotten fruits or animal droppings. This species hibernate as an adult butterfly. In May or June worn butterflies with their wing edge in white are seen.

Sorgmantel nymphalis antiopa


Published on Jun 3, 2013

fjäril Sorgmantel nymphalis antiopa
Music: ccMixter Longing for Tumbleweeds (ft. snowflake)
2011 Admiral Bob Licensed to the public under Verify at



Visitor Sightings

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Iris Katzke

Location: Underwood, Mn

Honey Fae (Farah)

Location: Hennepin County

mourning cloak

Greg Watson

Location: Eagles Bluff Park, La Crescent, MN

mourning cloak

Molly and Robert Power

Location: Albany MN

Drinking maple sap from a tap hole we drilled earlier this year

mourning cloak

Kate Nettleman

Location: Superior National Trail, near Grand Marais

I was astonished to see a mourning cloak butterfly flitting along Superior hiking trail north of Grand Marais today (November!)

Jay Anderson

Location: Chisholm, MN


Location: Marine, MN. 55047

Alfredo Colon
Summer 2018

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

mourning cloak

Carol Nettleton

Location: Oakdale Park

Observed adult sitting in leaf litter in open woodland on the north side of the nature center. Temperature in mid 60’s and sunny.

Patricia Jensen

I was in my backyard today and saw this butterfly sunning itself. Beautiful. Didn't know what it was until I looked it up. Will it survive our cold and snowy Spring?

John Valo

Good question. The next day it snowed. JG saw an early one on March 22, 2016 (below). I don't know what the weather was like that year.


Location: Roseville

Saw an adult in early this afternoon hovering over landscape bark at the base of a maple tree in our south-facing front yard


Location: Sauk Rapids

I have been seeing these in our neighbor hood all summer. We live in a swampy area with a lot of oak, popples, and willow trees.

Chuck Dick

Hello: I have one of these in a cocoon on my deck railing. Looking forward to watching it hatch.


Location: Hiawatha Park

Saw it cruising through the baseball infield at Hiawatha Park in Minneapolis.

Paul Martinek

Location: Douglas Co.

While researching what was eating my willow tree's I seen this email.  I had a quite large infestation of these yesterday.  Thought you might want to add douglas county as your sighting list.

Crystal Boyd
6/10 and 6/11/2013

Location: Uncas Dunes SNA Sightings




Created: 6/20/2009

Last Updated:

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