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.

How to Garden in Just 15 Minutes a Day

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

Downloading the Garden

Master gardener Paul James explains the benefits of shopping online.

What Would Don Draper Plant?

It's doubtful that the "Mad Men" hunk spent his mandatory leave of absence in the garden. But if he did, here's what he might have planted.

Beneficial Reptiles in the Garden

Find out how to encourage and work with these garden helpmates.

How to Adjust to a New Gardening Climate

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

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!

Go Shopping

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

What's New in Outdoors

On TV

Home Town

7am | 6c

Home Town

8am | 7c

Home Town

9am | 8c

Home Town

10am | 9c

Home Town

11am | 10c

Home Town

12pm | 11c

Home Town

1pm | 12c

Home Town

2pm | 1c

Home Town

3pm | 2c

Home Town

4pm | 3c

Home Town

5pm | 4c

Home Town

6pm | 5c

Home Town

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Home Town

8pm | 7c

Home Town

9pm | 8c

Home Town

10pm | 9c

Home Town

11pm | 10c

Home Town

12am | 11c

Home Town

1am | 12c

Home Town

2am | 1c

Home Town

2:59am | 1:59c

Follow Us Everywhere

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