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Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Hackberry Emperor, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 8/2/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Hackberry Emperor  
Picture of Hackberry-Emperor
Picture of Hackberry-Emperor

The warm weather of the southern U.S. and Mexico allows the Hackberry Emperor butterfly to produce up to three generations in just one year.

Hackberry Emperors can be found near hackberry trees. The larval caterpillars feed on the leaves of this host plant and namesake. They also feed on sugarberry trees. Many of them may be found feeding in close proximity to each other because females lay fertilized eggs in clusters on leaves. Caterpillars are plumpy and green with two yellow stripes running down the dorsal side (back). Yellow dots from head to rear may be visible between these two stripes. White diagonal lines on the sides of the caterpillar also run from head to rear. The green body is freckled with tiny white spots. Two fleshy antennae extend from the head and split into short fleshy branches. The tip of abdomen splits into a nubby two-pronged 'tail'.

Adults can vary in color and can range from brown to orange. They are fast and erratic in flight and rest on tree trunks head-down. They feed on rotting fruit juices, tree sap and animal dung. They may also visit decaying animal carcasses for liquid nourishment. Look for adult Hackberry Emperors in forests, woodland edges, near water sources (creeks, rivers, streams), gardens and backyards.

Hackberry Emperor Information

Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common Name: Hackberry Emperor
Scientific Name: Asterocampa celtis

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Lepidoptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Nymphalidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Asterocampa
       Arrow graphic Species: celtis

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 35 mm to 63 mm (1.365 inches to 2.457 inches)
Identifying Colors: brown, white, orange, black, tan, blue
Additional Descriptors: flying, eyespots, butterfly

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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