April is the cruelest month (but it has butterflies)

Mourning Cloak
Mourning Cloak

Or will be, at any rate: I may have over-committed myself. I have a couple of book reviews and a post about Horton Hears a Who in the works, but they’re going to take more than five minutes to get up–so–in the meantime, here is another harbinger of spring: the Mourning Cloak butterfly.

Mourning Cloaks have a broad range which includes the GTA, and are one of the few butterflies that overwinter: they find a crack of bark or other warm spot and enter a state of cryogenic suspension when winter begins, then thaw and return to life in the spring. Because of this, they are one of our longer-lived species, living nine to ten months on average. Unlike many other butterflies, they don’t feed from flowers but from tree sap, rotting fruit and mud puddles–nice, eh?–one reason it is able to survive the winter and emerge in early spring, before anything is blooming.

Besides sleeping through most of the winter, it can also estivate (hibernate) during summer hot spells, so you may not see mourning cloaks around during the hottest season.

They were all over the path by Newtonbrook Creek last Friday; this one kept divebombing my camera as I tried to take its picture.

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