|A Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterfly sips from a sap flow on our ash tree. Emerald Ash Borers have left their D-shaped holes all over our tree, and sap flows are everywhere. The only (short-lived) benefit of the infestation is an abundance of butterflies feasting on the sap, especially butterflies I don't normally see in our backyard, such as this Mourning Cloak. (Click here for an older post on the Emerald Ash Borer.)|
|Morning Cloak butterflies are called "brush-footed butterflies" or "four-footed butterflies" (family Nymphalidae). They have six legs like any other insect, but you can only see four of the legs. The other two are very small and resemble brushes. They are tucked up underneath the butterfly's "chin," and are not used for walking or perching. To read a little more about brush-footed butterflies, click here.|
|The beautiful dorsal markings of a Mourning Cloak butterfly|
In the spring, Mourning Cloaks are one of the first butterflies to take flight, and I have seen them flitting on sunny March days when snow is still on the ground! Since they are dark, they bask in the sun to raise their body temperatures for flight. They are solar powered on those cold days! Being sap lovers instead of flower nectar lovers helps these butterflies because they have a ready food source as soon as the sap starts to flow. Mourning Cloaks also love to feed off rotting fruit. This summer, I started a little area in my "wild patch" part of the yard where I would dump fruit that had started to turn before we could eat it. I put it out there for the hummingbirds, because I know they love to nab fruit flies from the air, but maybe the little fruit dump helped to lure these butterflies in too.