While surveying breeding birds last Saturday in the outback of Morgan County, I was struck by the numbers of butterflies coursing about. I saw many species, but it was the following two that really grabbed my eye, is it was the most I had ever seen of either in one day.
A Mourning Cloak, wings up and looking much like a blackened leaf. They really blend well when in this position. I saw dozens; seemed like every fifty feet I’d flush one from the back country gravel roads.
Their host plants include elms, willows, and some of the poplars, all of which are common in Ohio. They must have had a recent hatch, as all of the cloaks that I saw were stunning in their freshness. Mourning Cloaks last a while, too – they overwinter as adults and can sometimes be seen flying about and shaking off the dust in warm sunny mid-winter days.
The video above shows a small patch of Canada Thistle, Cirsium arvense, that is being swarmed by a feeding frenzy of frits. In general, Canada Thistle is a despicable non-native invader, but these butterflies are obviously intoxicated by its nectar. There were dozens of butterflies on this thistle patch, and all were males with the exception of one early to emerge female.