Mourning Cloak Caterpillar and Chrysalis

Subject: Consultation
Location: Whitehorse, Yukon
July 18, 2016 8:41 pm
Hi there,
Wondering if you might be able to help me identify this beauty. Maybe some kind of tent caterpillar? I found a bunch of them eating what I believe are the leaves of the trembling aspen. It just pupated and I would love to know the species so I can know approximately how long it will remain in the pupal stage.
So much appreciated!
Signature: Nicole

Mourning Cloak Caterpillar
Mourning Cloak Caterpillar

Dear Nicole,
These are most certainly NOT going to become Tent Caterpillar Moths, though we understand why you are mistaken.  The Caterpillar and Chrysalis will both eventually metamorphose into lovely Mourning Cloak Butterflies.  According to BugGuide:  “Eggs are laid in groups circling twigs of the host plant. Caterpillars live in a communal web and feed together on young leaves, then pupate and emerge as adults in June or July. After feeding briefly, the adults estivate until fall, when they re-emerge to feed and store energy for hibernation. Some adults migrate south in the fall.”  Because they hibernate as adults, Mourning Cloaks are among the longest lived butterflies and they are among the first to appear in the spring, sometimes flying on warm sunny days while there is still snow on the ground.  Mourning Cloaks are somewhat unusual among butterflies too in that they rarely visit flowers for nectar, instead feeding on tree sap and overly ripe fruit, two good natural sources for sugary fluids that they need for sustenance.  Mourning Cloaks have a large range including most of the northern hemisphere.  In England, the butterfly is called the Camberwell Beauty.

Mourning Cloak Chrysalis
Mourning Cloak Chrysalis

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