Don’t Touch These If You See Them on Your Plants

I mean, you always know where to find me? in my backyard. I love to plant a lot. Observing the fruits of your labor and watching plants grow is a really fulfilling experience. But let’s be honest—it can be really challenging. One of the biggest challenges is taking care of the pests. There are moments when you don’t even know which pests are beneficial to you and which ones would destroy all of your priceless belongings.

I recently came into a photo on social media that perfectly captures this ambiguity. The first time I saw it, I was afraid. The picture showed a leaf covered in little but intricate black geometric designs. At first, it looked like the leaf was covered in some kind of odd disease or an alien lattice. Many others were wondering what it may be, just like me.

After some research, I discovered that the strange patterns are, in fact, the eggs of Nymphalis Antiopa butterflies. If you are not familiar with this species, allow me to introduce it to you. Nymphalis Antiopa, the Mourning Cloak butterfly, is a fascinating insect with an odd life cycle and a few remarkable traits.


Let’s talk about the eggs first. The photo I saw showed these eggs on a leaf up close. They have the appearance of a thin covering of delicate black lace applied to the exterior. It’s actually rather nice once you get over your initial shock. Eggs are laid in clusters, and each tiny egg is a wonder of perfect geometry. When I first saw it, I thought, “This is either going to be really good for my garden or really bad.”





Thankfully, there’s good news: there are multiple applications for the Nymphalis Antiopa butterfly. Even though the caterpillars, or larvae, consume leaves, among other trees and shrubs, they often favor willows, elms, and poplars. Therefore, if you have a garden full of flowers and vegetables, you should be protected. These butterflies can be incredibly helpful because they also feed on rotting fruit, which helps with the decomposition process.

Observing these butterflies during their whole life cycle is fascinating. Once they hatch from those strange, complex eggs, the caterpillars emerge. They are black with tiny white spots, and their bodies are spiky and bristly. They go through a sequence of events known as instars, when they enlarge and shed their skin.


When the caterpillars reach adulthood, they choose a safe place to pupate. Inside a chrysalis, which resembles a small sleeping bag, they transform themselves. The duration of this stage might range from a few weeks to several months, based on the climate and season. When they finally show themselves, they are magnificent Mourning Cloak butterflies, with dark, velvety wings that are flecked with blue and have a bright yellow border around them.

One of the most intriguing things about Mourning Cloak butterflies is their behavior. Unlike many other species, these butterflies hibernate over the winter. They find a cozy hiding spot in a pile of wood, beneath loose bark, or beneath an old shed. Oftentimes even before the flowers open, they are among the first butterflies to emerge in the spring. Their early appearance and black, melancholic wings, which resemble a mourning garment, contrast with the stark, early spring surroundings, giving them the nickname “Mourning Cloaks.”

As gardeners, we often focus on the immediate effects that insects have on our plants. We worry that caterpillars will eat everything when we see them. But it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The Nymphalis Antiopa butterfly is a great example of how equilibrium is preserved in nature. The caterpillars won’t totally ruin your plants, even if they will eat some of the leaves. In fact, by providing a home for these butterflies, you are enhancing the ecology.

So what should you do if you find these eggs or caterpillars in your garden? I think you should leave them alone. Enjoy the process and note the transformation. If you are very concerned about your plants, you can carefully move the caterpillars to a tree or shrub where they will be happy and less likely to devour your precious blossoms.

In gardening, balance is crucial. It’s about finding balance with the animals you coexist with and the beautiful plants you love. When you see something strange in your yard the next time, investigate it a bit before using a pesticide. Just like when I found the Nymphalis Antiopa butterfly eggs, you might find something very amazing.

In the end, everything is a part of the journey. The wealth of each season, along with its challenges, is what makes gardening so rewarding.

Rate article