Floridata Article

Hackberry Butterfly (Asterocampa celtis)

Hackberry Butterfly
Habitat: Rich, deciduous woodland and forest edges Garden Abundance: Occassional Wingspan: 1.5 to 2.5 inches Range: From southern Canada to Florida and west to Texas Larval Host Plants: Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), dwarf hackberry (Celtis teuifolia), and common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) Favorite Adult Nectar Sources: Adults do not visit flowers but instead prefer rotting fruit, dung, carrion, and tree sap.

The hackberry butterfly can quickly be distinguished from the similar-looking tawny emperor (Asterocampa clyton) by its lighter brown coloration and the presence of a single eyespot on each wing. The eyespots on the hind wings below have blue-green centers. Males are typically smaller and have narrower wings than females. They are quite territorial and readily fly out from their established perches to investigate passing objects. Inhabitants of rich woodland areas supporting their hosts, hackberry butterflies rarely venture out into open areas. Although often spotty in distribution, the species can be relatively abundant when encountered.

The larva is green with yellow spots and longitudinal lines. The body tapers at both ends, with the last segment prominently forked. The head bears two branched spines that resemble small antlers. Unlike its cousin the tawny emperor, female hackberry butterflies lay small white eggs singly or in small clusters on host leaves. The pupa is green and attached by a silken pad at the base.

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