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Mourning Cloak

   
Butterflies and moths have a four stage life cycle: egg, caterpillar (larva), pupa (cocoon, chrysalis), adult (butterfly, moth). The length of time they spend in each stage of their life varies greatly from species to species.
 
The caterpillar of the Mourning Cloak reaches a length of 2" (51mm). Black with rows of black bristles, white speckles, with red to redish brown spots on it's back . Feeding in groups on the leaves of several types of deciduous trees including elm, willow, cottonwood.
 
Once the caterpillar chooses a place pupate he spins a pad from which to hang, this pad is called a cremaster.
 
 
The pupa or cocoon of the Mourning cloak is grey or tan color is approximately 7/8" long. You will also notice in this photo and the next two as well, the cocoon is 'thorny'. This is probably a defense mechanism to keep birds and reptiles from eating them before they emerge.

 
 
The case of the pupa splits as the butterfly struggles to emerge. Mourning Cloak emerging from his Cocoon
Photo by Jack Lucke
 
When the butterfly emerges from the pupa it will rest with it's wings hanging down. Pumping blood into the veins of the wing so they can expand before they dry.
As soon as the butterfly is able to fly courtship begins. The lifespan of most butterflies is anywhere from a week to 8 months, with an average of about 2 to 3 weeks
 
 
 
 
 
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