Butterflies have always been associated with something light, delicate and sunny. However, the name — Butterfly mourning, does not fit any of these descriptions. The insect owes its sad name to the dark color of the wings. Its colors are memorable, so many childhood memories are associated with this moth.
Origin of the species and description
The species belongs to diurnal butterflies of the Nymphalidae family. The Russian name for Lepidoptera is associated with the dark color of the insect. In the West, the butterfly is better known as the “mourning mantle”, in France its name is translated as “sorrow”, in Poland it is called the “complaining gardener”. She owes her Latin name Antiopa to Antiope, the queen of the Amazons.
Interesting fact: Naturalist Carl Linnaeus named the butterfly in honor of the daughter of the god Niktea. She gave birth to twins from Zeus, but was afraid of her father’s fury and fled to the Peloponnese. Niktei ordered his brother to find and kill his daughter. He persuaded her sons to tie the fugitive to the horns of a ferocious bull. At the last moment, the twins learned that their mother was in front of them and the murder did not take place.
According to one version, the mourners got their name due to the similarity with the color of the cape of professional mourners, a common profession 15 century in Europe. After 300 years, the moth has become a national symbol of mourning among European nations.
Video: Mourning Butterfly
There is a set of the subspecies dependent on temperature indicators. Under the influence of extremely low or, on the contrary, high temperatures, many forms arise, such as, for example, hygiaea Heydenr. The subspecies lacks blue eyes and has a wider light border along the edge of the wings.
Appearance and Features
The description of the mourning place is much more colorful than its name. The background of the wings is cherry or dark brown. The outer edge of the wings is sinuous, with teeth, bordered by a wide yellow stripe. Along it is a row of blue or blue spots. At the top of the front wings are two faded yellow spots.
- wingspan – 7-9 centimeters;
- front wing length – 3-4.5 centimeters.
The lower parts of the wings are dark. In wintering individuals, the border is much lighter. This is due to the fact that the color fades during wintering. The lighter color is not associated with seasonal forms. In butterflies living in the Far East, the border remains yellow. Sexual dimorphism is not expressed.
Interesting fact: The color of the moth depends on the weather conditions in which the chrysalis developed. Very high or ultra-low temperatures cause her shock and hormonal changes occur in the body. The brown tone becomes darker and the blue strokes may be missing.
For the Nymphalidae family, a patronizing color is characteristic of the underside of the wings. This side of the mourning woman is brown with black strokes and a light border. A similar color serves as a disguise for the moth against the background of tree trunks and branches.
The body of the insect is oval in shape, dark brown in color, there are three pairs of thin legs on which there are taste buds. On the head are long club-shaped antennae as an organ of touch and a proboscis. The moth has 4 eyes: 2 of them are in the parietal zone and 2 on the sides.
Where does the mourning butterfly live?
The species is widely distributed in the Palearctic. Moths are accustomed to life in temperate climates. Therefore, they are not found in tropical areas. Insects do not climb further than 68 degrees north latitude. Mourning women live in England, Norway, Germany. Migratory specimens have been observed on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
The species is distributed in Japan, throughout Europe and Asia, in North America, and in northern Africa. Does not appear in Greece, in southern Spain and on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It lives in the mountains of the Caucasus and the Carpathians, with the exception of the Black Sea coast. The species is absent on the Crimean Peninsula, but vagrants can be found.
Insects were artificially brought to North America, from there butterflies settled from Mexico to Canada. Previously, the species lived throughout Europe, but after the end of World War II, their number dropped sharply. In the tundra zone, only migrating individuals are found, in the forest-steppe and steppe zones – only in forest valleys.
With the onset of warm spring days, moths circle in clearings, in gardens and meadows, on the banks of reservoirs, and roadsides. For wintering, they look for reliable shelters, and when it gets warmer, they get out to search for food and breed. They can be found at altitudes up to 2000 m. Under favorable conditions, life expectancy is up to one year.
What does the mourning butterfly eat?
Insects prefer overripe fruits, mainly plums and apples, to flower nectar. Moths are very attracted to the smell of sweet and sour fermentation. Accumulations of these creatures can be found on damaged tree trunks, on which tree sap has come out. Butterflies especially like birch sap.
After drinking the fermented juice, the moths become distracted and lose their vigilance, therefore they become the prey of birds and small rodents. Mourners perch on flowers and field weeds. Creatures cannot get the lack of vitamins and microelements from pollen, so they make up for it from rotting carrion and animal excrement.
It is very important for moths to get enough moisture, so it is vital for them to live near water bodies. At the caterpillar stage, insects feed on food plants.
Their diet includes:
- rose hips;
Often, beautiful creatures can be found sitting on the ground near fruitful trees, trying to feast on overripe fruits. Often they choose cracked fruits in order to easily extract the juice from them. Caterpillars spend most of their time searching for food. Before falling into hibernation, they feed heavily, trying to eat as much vegetation as possible.
Character and lifestyle features
With the onset of spring butterflies get out of secluded places, bask in the sun and look for food for themselves. In Russia, they can be found only from July-August to October. When the nights get cool, insects begin to look for places for wintering – cracks in stumps and trunks to protect themselves from the cold, basements of residential buildings.
The dark color of the wings helps insects to easily hide in the grass. In early spring, only females can be found. They lay eggs, after which they immediately die. These individuals are able to travel great distances. Migration usually occurs in the fall in search of shelter.
Interesting fact: You can determine the cardinal points by the mourning room. When a moth sits down to rest, it folds its wings and turns its back to the sun. In the morning, the wings are turned to the east, at noon to the south, and in the evening they point to the west.
Mourning houses appear in one generation. Subspecies have not been studied, but there are a lot of them. The brightness of their color depends on the season and habitat. Coming out of the cocoon in the spring, the insect will have a duller color. Immediately after birth, they migrate. In hot weather, flights take several days. They depend on weather conditions.
Moths can live until June next year, and in the mountains until August. In spring, butterflies live in places far from where they were born. In winter, many do not withstand frost and die. From the beginning of summer, the number of males prevails, then the inequality is eliminated.
Social structure and reproduction
Reproduction of the mourning moth is not much different from other moths. Pheromones are released from the back of the abdomen of females, with which they attract males. The mating process lasts quite a long time – from 30 minutes to several hours in habitats. Males protect the territory from rivals.
The clutch contains about 100 eggs. The eggs are attached to the leaves or stems of host plants. Moths attach masonry around birch branches, forming rings. Caterpillars hatch in June. At birth, their length is only 2 millimeters. Caterpillars are black with white and red spots.
The brood is kept in a group. Caterpillars go through 5 stages of maturation. On each of them there is a molt. The Amazon queens eat their skin. By the last stage, their length reaches 5.4 centimeters. Individuals disperse before pupation. The pupae are attached to the branches of small trees upside down. Their length is about 3 centimeters. It will remain in this state for 11-12 days.
A few days after birth, insects enter diapause. Until the end of August they are in energy-saving mode. After that, the moths begin to feed intensively in order to accumulate a supply of energy for hibernation. With the onset of the first cold weather, they hide and fall asleep.
Natural enemies of mourning butterflies
At all stages of development, the insect is surrounded by many enemies. Moth eggs are not averse to eating spiders, beetles or ants. Adults are affected by certain species of birds, reptiles, or small rodents. Although Lepidoptera have a camouflage coloration that turns them into a withered leaf, many individuals do not survive until spring when found in shelters.
The caterpillars suffer from parasitic insects, hymenoptera, which lay eggs directly in their bodies. Pests also lay their eggs on forage plants. Caterpillars eat leaves with clutches and parasitoids develop in the body of future butterflies, eating them from the inside. Riders are born already formed.
Among the parasites are egg, larval, egg-larval, pupal, larval-pupal types. Some of them can paralyze the victim completely or parts of their body. Organisms live and develop at the expense of butterflies. As a result of their vital activity, Lepidoptera die or become sterile.
Spiders and praying mantises hunt moths from ambush. They wait for beautiful creatures on flowers or catch them in a web. Among the enemies are some species of wasps and ground beetles. Ktyrs and dragonflies hunt the mourner during the flight. Toads and lizards lie in wait for butterflies on the ground and near water bodies.
Population and species status
Before the outbreak of World War II, the number of moths was quite high. Lepidoptera were distributed throughout Europe. For reasons still unknown, the population declined significantly after the war. At the moment, the level is low, but relatively stable.
In the late 1960s, there was a massive surge in the number of insects in the Moscow region, in 1970 – in Novosibirsk, in 1985 – in the Tula region, and in relatively recent times – in 2008 in Chelyabinsk. During its history, the species has experienced several fluctuations in numbers in the direction of reduction or increase.
The population decline trend is mainly dependent on the destruction of the natural habitats of the mourner. In the 1990s, moths were found in more than 20 natural and artificially created territories of the Moscow region. During this period, individuals could be found in residential areas, the Kuzminsky forest, on the Krylatsky hills.
In the 1990s, the number recovered and even increased slightly, but it was rare to meet it within the Moscow Ring Road. Since the early 2000s, only five habitats remain. If before that there were many individuals in Tsaritsyn, then after 2005, no matter how much the territory was examined, populations could not be found.
Insects are important elements in the food chain. Larvae and pupae play an important role in the nutrition of birds. Thanks to adults, rare species of small mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles survive. They play an important role in the pollination of flowers.
In built-up areas, mourners lack food and places to spend the winter. Due to the drying of trees along the roads, lack of water and wet soil, reduction of green spaces, regular destruction of old hollow trees, a decrease in the number of insects is observed.
The species is listed in the Red Book of the Smolensk region. He was assigned category 3 as rare with a limited number. In 2001, it was listed in the Red Book of the Moscow Region. From 1978 to 1996 it was guarded on the territory of the capital. The main habitats are registered in protected areas.
To preserve the species, it is necessary to maintain the nature of the natural habitats of the mourning woman, which include the presence of glades, aspen, birch, and willow forests. Sanitary felling of emergency trees should be limited. In residential areas and landscaped areas, the presence of hollow and succulent, fruitful trees should be ensured.
Deep pruning of poplars has been stopped in some areas. Conservation measures include cleaning the air and soil to a safe level necessary to maintain tree vegetation. The butterfly should be provided with a sufficient number of clean water bodies and the drainage of swamps should be prevented.
Every year, an increasing number of countries oppose the uncontrolled capture of Lepidoptera. In some countries, illegal moth fishing is punishable by imprisonment. Some states issue cash rewards for information about the illegal capture of beautiful creatures. Catching a mourning woman is prohibited in many countries of the world, including Russia.
The mourning butterfly is a beautiful, majestic and exquisite butterfly. Its coloring is hard to miss. If a person meets her on his way, he has only warm and bright feelings. The Queen of the Amazons does not justify her sad name, because she looks really majestic, bright and elegant.