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Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Hackberry Emperor



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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.



Updated: 08/24/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Hackberry Emperors can be found near hackberry trees. Adults can vary in color and can range from brown to orange. The topside of the wings are mostly dark with white dots and spots in the area by the wing tip. The underside of the wings are lighter brown, but dark and light bands of brown set a backdrop for rows of light and dark patterned shapes. Each large forewing has a black and white eyespot by the front edge, and a black spot with a yellow ring farther below it. Each hindwing has a row of black and blue eyespots that follow the wing's natural curve. The third eyespot is out of line and slightly larger than its neighbors.

This butterfly is fast and erratic in flight and rests on tree trunks head-down. It feeds on rotting fruit juices, tree sap and animal dung. It 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.

The larval caterpillars feed on the leaves of hackberry trees. 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 plump 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'.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
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          Genus: Asterocampa
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            Species: celtis
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Asterocampa celtis
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 35mm to 63mm (1.37" to 2.48")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown, white, orange, black, tan, blue
Descriptors: flying, eyespots, butterfly
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 35mm and 63mm
Lo: 35mm
Md: 49mm
Hi: 63mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
State of Alabama graphic
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Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Hackberry Emperor may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Hackberry Emperor. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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