Spiny Elm Caterpillar

The spiny elm caterpillar is the larval stage of the mourning cloak butterfly.

Related To:

Spiny Elm Caterpillar in Crevice

Spiny Elm Caterpillar in Crevice

This spiny elm caterpillar with red spots will eventually become a mourning cloak butterfly.

This spiny elm caterpillar with red spots will eventually become a mourning cloak butterfly.

The spiny elm caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa) belongs to the category of "stinging caterpillars." When full grown, this two-inch-long caterpillar is covered with bristles. Its body is black with numerous white flecks and a row of red spots down the back; the prolegs are red.

Butterfly-Mourning-Cloak-Hyche-Bugwood_s4x3

Butterfly-Mourning-Cloak-Hyche-Bugwood_s4x3

Mourning cloak butterfly — image courtesy of Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University, Bugwood.org

Mourning cloak butterfly — image courtesy of Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University, Bugwood.org

The spiny elm caterpillar is the larval stage of the mourning cloak butterfly, a desirable species for the butterfly garden. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of elm, willow, hackberry and cottonwood, rarely causing significant damage. In some parts of the country the caterpillars are seen in spring, but in some areas a second brood may be seen in late summer. The mourning cloak butterfly is also one of few butterflies to overwinter in the adult stage.

Next Up

Fungus on Mulch: Stinkhorn

Mulch can be the breeding ground for unsightly but harmless growths.

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

The White-lined Sphinx Moth starts out as a caterpillar and uses soil to turn into an adult moth.

Assassin Bug

Despite its unfriendly name, this critter is a friend to gardeners most of the time.

Mystery Critter: Scale

This quiet, immobile insect can wreak havoc on certain plants.

Different Types of Compost Bins

Learn about the many options for wood or plastic compost bins that are easy to assemble and use in your garden.

How to Garden in Just 15 Minutes a Day

No time to garden? Learn 10 easy tricks to multiply minutes in the garden.

Flannel Moth Caterpillar

The one-inch-long flannel moth caterpillar is fluffy but definitely not friendly. Don't let this cute Einstein-like visage fool you!

When to Use Pesticides and Fungicides

Chemicals aren't always needed. Learn when -- and when not -- to use pesticides and fungicides in your garden.

How to Adjust to a New Gardening Climate

Get acclimated to your new garden and climate after a move with these simple expert tips.

Community Gardens: What are the Rules of the Rows?

Community gardens can be great ways to grow food and improve your community. But certain behavior is expected. Learn more about community garden etiquette.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Good Bones

11am | 10c

Good Bones

12pm | 11c

Good Bones

1pm | 12c

Good Bones

2pm | 1c

Good Bones

3pm | 2c

Good Bones

4pm | 3c

Good Bones

5pm | 4c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Bargain Block

8pm | 7c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

10:31pm | 9:31c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

House Hunters

11:30pm | 10:30c

Bargain Block

12am | 11c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

House Hunters

1:31am | 12:31c

House Hunters

2:30am | 1:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.