With the warmer weather we have been experiencing this week, mourning cloaks and other butterflies have been seen flying around Bernheim Forest. Mourning cloaks are one of many butterfly species that overwinter, or live through the winter, as adults. They are usually one of the first butterflies seen each year, in addition to Question Mark and Comma butterflies, which also overwinter as adults.
They spend the cold winter months frozen in tree cavities, unheated buildings, wood piles, and loose bark. They will hibernate anywhere they can be protected from the wind and predators like birds. Since mourning cloaks overwinter as adults they are one of our longest living butterflies, and can be live up to 10 months.
Many of you might be wondering what they feed on so early in the year, since there are no flowers. Mourning cloaks will feed on sap from trees, especially oaks, as well as animal droppings and decaying things. They might also land on you to gleam minerals from your sweat.
Mourning cloaks stay warm by basking in the sunlight, and can be seen in many openings in the forest on warm winter and spring days. So if you come out to Bernheim on a warm day, watch for our early butterflies like the mourning cloak.