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Genus Nymphalis - Tortoiseshells

Mourning Cloak - Nymphalis antiopa Compton Tortoiseshell - Nymphalis l-album Nymphalidae  - Nymphalis antiopa Nymphalidae, Mourning Cloak, emerged - Nymphalis antiopa Nymphalis antiopa Mourning Cloak Laying Eggs - Nymphalis antiopa California Tortoiseshell Butterfly - Nymphalis californica Mourning Cloak - Nymphalis antiopa
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
Subfamily Nymphalinae (Crescents, Checkerspots, Anglewings, etc.)
Tribe Nymphalini
Genus Nymphalis (Tortoiseshells)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Nymphalis Kluk, 1780. Type species: Papilio polychlorus Linnaeus
Scudderia Grote, 1873. Type species: Papilio antiopa Linnaeus [name invalid - preoccupied by Scudderia Stål, 1873]
Euvanessa Scudder, 1889. Type species: Papilio antiopa Linnaeus [proposed as replacement for Scudderia Grote, 1873]
Kaniska Moore, 1899. Type species: Papilio canace Linnaeus. Placement switches back and forth between Polygonia and Nymphalis; or, traditionally is separated as a distinct monophyletic genus. Closer to Nymphalis in most traits and in molecular studies, but shape of the front wing is like Polygonia. Not in N. America.
Roddia Korshunov, 1995. Type species: Papilio l-album Esper
Antiopana Korb, 2005. Type species Papilio antiopa Linnaeus
Explanation of Names
The species N. l-album has been separated by some into the genus Roddia. This is not generally accepted by most, but has caught on with some. Using Johathon Pelham's listing as a standard, the genus Roddia is not recognized in BugGuide as distinct from Nymphalis. Differences are trivial, and molecular studies do not support a distinction at generic level.
see 'Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada', Jonathan Pelham, 2008; or 'A Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada' on line, © Jonathan P. Pelham, revised 2012, at 'Butterflies of America' web site.
Some authors include Polyognia, Kaniska, Aglais, Inachis, and Roddia within Nymphalis all as one genus, and good arguments have been presented for doing so. [For example, see Markku Savela' web site]. However, most would prefer to have at least some of these remain as distinct genera.
The following paper goes into some detail on phylogenetic relationships based on molecular study, and proposes a classification for the subfamily Nymphalinae. It is probably very close to what will become generally accepted in the future. Roddia is not recognized as distinct in this study:
Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of tribes and genera in the subfamily Nymphalinae (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) NIKLAS WAHLBERG, ANDREW V. Z. BROWER, and SÖREN NYLIN. 2005, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 86: 227–251.
On similar grounds, the Milbert's Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae is excluded from Nymphalis and placed in the separate genus Aglais (see discussion in Taxonomy Forum). Many authors consider Aglais to be a synonym or subgenus of Nymphalis, and the two are very similar in most respects. However, based on recent molecular studies, Polygonia is more closely related to Nymphalis than is Aglais, so if the later is included under Nymphalis, so must be Polygonia.
6 or 7 species World-wide (depending on inclusion of Kaniska canace).
3 species in North America north of Mexico (N. cyanomeles Doubleday, is found only in Mexico).
Northern Hemisphere in temperate and boreal regions.
Larvae feed primarily on Betulaceae, Salicaceae and Ulmaceae.

Adults rarely visit flowers, and tend to favor plant sap, fermenting fruit, carrion, etc.
Life Cycle
Overwinter as adults, and may produce one to several broods per year depending upon the species and the region.
See Also