These little guys…
Found these little guys climbing out of my Chinese elm tree, here in Southern California. I watched for over an hour as at least 15 climbed down, one by one. Can you tell me what kind they are, and what they feed on? Thanks.

Hi Michelle,
This is a Mourning Cloak Butterfly Caterpillar. They were feeding on the leaves of your Chinese Elm and they left the tree to find a good place to pupate. Mourning Cloaks are lovely purplish black butterflies with cream colored wing edges and blue spots.

Wow! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my e-mail. Our entire evening had been centered around these caterpillars. My children and I carefully collected them as they came out of the tree thinking we would watch then release them as butterflies. Since I wasn’t sure what they fed on and didn’t want them to starve, I placed them back at the base of the tree. I tried looking online several times to identify, but had no luck. I even woke in the middle of the night thinking of them….funny. Anyway, it was SO NICE to find your e-mail with the answer, and the kids (2 & 4) were amazed with the pictures and facts I was able to then find on the internet. Thank you for helping keep our interest “peaked”. All that right in our own back yard! So cool. Take care.

One Response to Mourning Cloak Butterfly Caterpillar

  1. Stephen says:

    Years ago in the 1970s my parents Chinese elm tree hedge became full of these caterpillars. My mother thought they were harmful grubs. She found a way to kill them. She would take branches full of them and burn them in a garbage can. Years later I became very interested in butterflies and caterpillars. I even learned to raise monarchs and painted ladies. I’ve learned they were caterpillars that turned into mourning cloaks. My mother didn’t kmow.

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