Congratulations to Tamara of Tea for Three for randomly winning our caterpillar identification contest! Be sure to contact us directly at info (at) littleacornlearning.com to claim your free e-book!~
For those of you who guessed it, you were correct; the Mourning Cloak Butterfly or Nymphalis Antiopa is the type of butterfly our little caterpillar will turn into.
One of the larger species of butterflies, Mourning Cloaks live a longer life than most. They can often live up to 10 months as adults and grow to be almost 2 inches in length. This butterfly’s wings act as “solar panels” and collect the heat of the sun to warm its blood in its wings in order to allow for sufficient flight.
When the caterpillars grow to be full sized, they will leave their siblings and the plant they were hosting on to go look for a place to pupate. Once it finds an ideal place, the caterpillar will hang by silk and shed its skin once again (it sheds up to 5x!) and go into the pupal stage where it will form into a chrysalis.
After about 10-15 days the butterfly will emerge! These butterflies will eat various leaves of trees. An interesting fact about this butterfly is that it will hibernate over the winter! Yes, it will hide under bark or loose debris. It stays there still until the cold temperatures pass. That is one of the reasons it lives such a long life. The longest life of any North American butterfly. This hibernation is also why they are often the first butterflies seen in early Spring.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about this special insect. Stay tuned for more fun identification contests by Little Acorn Learning.