text& photos by Bea Laporte of Ontario, Canada
A female Mourning Cloak - Euvanessa lintnerii, as identified by Joseph Belicek, with faded and tattered wings, lays eggs on a willow (Salix sp.). See the eggs under her abdomen? Mourning Cloaks are Brush-Footed Butterflies of the family Nymphalidae.
What beautiful golden-yellow eggs! Each egg with 9 ribs, deposited on the underside of a leaf, in a typical pancake patch.
A few days later the eggs begin to darken.
The day before they hatch the eggs turn to black, primarly due to the little black heads showing through.
Ten days after they were laid, the first one hatched and the others soon followed.
The newly hatched caterpillars do not eat the eggshell as their first meal, as larvae of some other butterflies do! Instead the thin, empty and translucent eggshells remain where the eggs were laid.
Then we set them free. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a willow tree so we set them loose at the base of a White Birch and hoped that they could find their way.
We wish you well little Mourning Cloak caterpillars! May you live a full life!