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Tawny Emperor Butterfly (Asterocampa clyton)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Tawny Emperor Butterfly.

 Updated: 6/21/2019; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The large Tawny Emperor has a few variations in color, but none of them have the eyespots seen under the wings of other sovereign kin.



Tawny Emperor Butterfly Videos



A Tawny Emperor hanging upside down on a bush

Tawny describes an orange-brown color that is common with this species of butterfly. The Tawny Emperor may also be more yellow-brown, or even a pale gray-brown or taupe. It is a large butterfly and is similar in appearance to the Hackberry Emperor. Both share the same range east of the Rockies, but the Tawny Emperor's is more concentrated in the center of that region. To differentiate between the two, check the underside of the wings for eyespots. Tawny Emperors do not have any underneath, but the Hackberry does. Two bold black bars near the 'shoulders' stand out on its forewing. These black bars are visible on the other side of the wing as well. A hazy, or blurry, row of small white spots ringed in brown form a choppy line on the hindwings. If the butterfly opens its wings flat, the top side of the Tawny Emperor has a row of dark eyespots on the bottom edge of the hindwings. Light patches with a dark brown edge on the forewing curve their way across it.

The caterpillar of the Tawny Emperor is a pale green with a dark blue-green line on the back. Its head has two horns on it that have branch-like extensions. Some extensions also extend from the side of the head. It congregates with siblings over winter and develops into an adult by spring. Like Hackberry Emperor caterpillars, this species also feeds on the leaves of hackberry trees. One to three generations are produced in a year.

Aside from being pretty to look at, Tawny Emperors are known to also be quite affable. They rest on people that are willing, most likely to drink sweat from arms or legs. The salt in perspiration is a mineral often sought by butterflies, usually from less mobile sources. Adults also drink the pungent liquids found on rotting fruit, dung, and carrion. Look for this brown butterfly in or near woodlands that have hackberry trees in them.
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
          Genus: Asterocampa
            Species: clyton
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Asterocampa clyton
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 48mm to 60mm (1.87in to 2.34in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown, orange, yellow, gray, black, white
Descriptors: row of brown dots, flying, beneficial, large, black bands, friendly
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
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Mexico
Note: 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 as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.


Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
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Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
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Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
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Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
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Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
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Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.