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Hackberry Emperor
Asterocampa celtis

Copyright by: Beryn Harty

Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan up to 2-1/2 inches; extremely variable geographically. The upperside of the wings is light brown. The forewing has a black submarginal eyespot and a jagged row of white spots near the apex; the cell has two black spots. The underside is a creamy grayish-brown with one black marginal eyespot. The underside of the hindwing has a row of postmedian eyespots with powdery bluish-green centers. Females are larger than males and have broader wings. The stout caterpillar is green with many tiny yellow spots, two narrow yellow stripes on the back, narrow yellow stripes on the sides and two short tails. The head is green with faint white stripes; the upper half is brown. There are short spines on the sides and a pair of short black horns on the top.
North America, northern Mexico.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Locally common to abundant in West Florida and North Florida March-November; locally uncommon to common in Central Florida March-November; rare stray in South Florida; not present in the Keys.
Stream edges, woodland edges and hammocks.
Two to three broods per year. The white or yellow eggs are laid singly or in small clusters on the underside of host plant leaves. The young caterpillars feed communally. Caterpillars overwinter in groups inside dead rolled leaves.
Natural History:
These butterflies fly rapidly in a nervous manner. They rest upside down on tree trunks. Males perch on plants, waiting for females. Females are seen less frequently because they are less active than males. Hackberry emperors may land on people and drink sweat in search of salts. They also may land on bright objects. Males can be attracted to pieces of white paper held in sunlight.
Caterpillars feed on species of hackberry (Celtis), including the native sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) and hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). Adults feed on tree sap, rotting fruit, dung and carrion. They also sip moisture at wet or muddy spots along roads and streams.
For more information, visit the University of Florida's Featured Creatures website, the Florida Museum of Natural History's Florida Wildflowers & Butterflies website and Butterflies and Moths of North America.

Copyright by: Beryn Harty

Copyright by: Mary Keim

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