Discover the Official Montana State Insect (2023)

Montana is a state located in the western region of the United States. It shares borders with North Dakota to the east, South Dakota and Wyoming to the south, Idaho to the west, and Canada to the north. The landscape of Montana is diverse, featuring mountains, forests, plains, and rivers. The state is home to several iconic national parks, such as Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. These parks attract millions of visitors each year. Montana also has a rich history and culture shaped by its Native American heritage and frontier past. Find out more about this state, such as the official Montana state insect.

Montana State Insect

Discover the Official Montana State Insect (1)

The official Montana state insect is the mourning cloak butterfly, scientifically known as Nymphalis antiopa. This beautiful insect has a wingspan that ranges from 2 to 4 inches. It displays an elegant combination of dark brownish-black and vibrant yellow colors. Other common names for this butterfly are the grand surprise butterfly and the white petticoat butterfly. When it is in its caterpillar stage, it is often referred to as the spiny elm caterpillar. On the other side of the pond, in Great Britain, this butterfly is called the Camberwell Beauty.

The upper side of its wings is a beautiful mix of rich, velvety black with bold yellow edges. The underside is mostly light brown with cream-colored spots. The male butterflies have slightly brighter colors than their female counterparts, but both sexes are equally beautiful in appearance.

What makes this butterfly unique is its ability to hibernate during winter months. It finds shelter under tree bark or within rock crevices. When they emerge in the spring, they can be seen flying around, feeding on tree sap, rotting fruit, or nectar from flowers such as lilacs and dandelions.

Overall, the mourning cloak butterfly’s distinctive coloration, coupled with its remarkable survival instincts, make it a fitting choice for Montana’s official state insect.

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Range and Habitat

The mourning cloak butterfly, the Montana state insect, can be found throughout the state and beyond. This beautiful species has a wide distribution that spans across North America from Alaska to Mexico and even into parts of Europe and Asia.

In Montana, specifically, the mourning cloak butterfly is mostly seen in wooded areas such as forests and parks. They also visit areas near water sources like rivers or streams. These butterflies are known for their adaptability when it comes to habitat – they have been spotted in fields, meadows, gardens, and even suburban areas.

Interestingly enough, the mourning cloak butterfly is one of the few species that actually hibernate during winter months. They often hide out in tree cavities or under the bark until spring arrives. Once temperatures warm up again, they become active once more.

The range of these species makes them an excellent indicator of environmental health. If populations start to decline, it may signal larger issues at play within ecosystems where these butterflies reside.

Overall, there are many opportunities to spot this fascinating creature while visiting Montana’s varied landscapes!

Reproduction, Mating, and Lifecycle

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The mourning cloak butterfly, the official Montana state insect, has an interesting mating behavior. During the early spring months, male butterflies become active and start searching for a mate. They use their sense of sight to locate females by searching their surroundings for any signs of movement or color.

Lekking is a behavior mostly shown by the Montana state insect, the mourning cloak butterfly. Lekking refers to a mating system in which males gather in groups (known as leks) and compete for the attention of females who visit these sites solely for the purpose of mating. At these leks, males engage in elaborate courtship displays such as wing-flapping or pheromone release to attract females.

The lekking behavior of mourning cloak butterflies occurs during early spring, when adult butterflies emerge from hibernation and begin searching for mates. Males establish territories within their chosen lek site and defend themselves against rival males using aggressive behaviors like chasing or fighting.


Females are highly selective about picking their mates, preferring those with more prominent physical traits or successful courtship displays. Once a female chooses her mate, they will engage in copulation that can last several hours.

Overall, lekking is an essential aspect of the reproductive cycle of mourning cloak butterflies in Montana and plays an important role in maintaining genetic diversity within their populations.

Once a male finds a female that he is interested in, he will attempt to court her by flying around her and displaying his wings in an attractive manner. If the female likes a male’s advances, she will respond by fluttering her wings back at him.

Life Cycle

After mating occurs, the female mourning cloak butterfly lays eggs on host plants such as willows and cottonwoods. The eggs hatch into caterpillars which go through several stages before becoming pupae. Once they emerge from their chrysalis as adult butterflies, the cycle begins anew.

Overall, the reproductive process of mourning cloak butterflies involves specific behaviors and life phases that showcase nature’s beauty and diversity.

Larval and Adult Foods

Mother butterflies lay their eggs on specific types of plants to give their young the best chance of survival. When mourning cloak butterflies are in the caterpillar stage, they hatch and immediately start eating the leaves of the plant where they were born. Common larval plants are those in the willow family, such as black willow and bay willow. They are also fond of American Elm trees, poplar trees, hawthorn, wild roses, and hackberry bushes.

The adult mourning cloak butterfly has a unique diet that changes as it ages through different stages of its life cycle. Adult mourning cloaks are mostly attracted to sources of sap, fruit, and the sugary substance that aphids release. They very rarely feed on nectar from flowers like other butterflies do.

When the adult butterfly emerges from its chrysalis in late winter or early spring, it will often be seen perched on tree trunks or branches where it can easily access these sources of food. Mourning cloaks have been known to tap into sap flows by piercing the bark with their proboscis-like mouthparts and drinking up the sweet liquid.

As summer gets closer and more fruit becomes available, they may switch to feeding on overripe berries such as raspberries or blackberries that have fallen to the ground. They may also consume juices oozing from damaged fruit or other plant parts.

Interestingly enough, despite being known for their beautiful wings marked with blue spots and yellow edges when they’re fully grown adults, mourning cloak butterflies spend most of their time living rather nondescript lives while still in the larval stage – feeding mainly on leaves that grow near water such as poplars and willows along streamsides before emerging into adulthood.

Butterfly Defenses

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The mourning cloaks, the official Montana state insect, rely on several defense mechanisms for protection. These include camouflage, where they fold their wings closely against dark tree trunks, joining with other butterflies to fly toward an attacker, playing dead by closing their wings and remaining still and producing loud clicking sounds.

To keep themselves warm in their native Montana environment, mourning cloaks will seek out sunny spots. The darkly colored wings of the butterflies absorb heat more efficiently. Newly hatched caterpillars of this species may resort to eating the un-hatched eggs of their siblings in order to survive. Additionally, the larvae and pupae of the mourning cloak come together in groups as a way of getting away from predators. As a final defense, the larvae and pupae can move in unison when they sense a disturbance, which may act as a defense because they appear larger this way.

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