Floridata Article

Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)

Tawny Emperor
Habitat: Moist woodlands and forest edges Garden Abundance: low Wingspan: 2 - 2.75in Range: Throughout most of the eastern United States from Texas and Florida to Minnesota and New York Larval Host Plants: Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) and common hackberry (C. occidentalis) Favorite Adult Nectar Sources: The tawny emperor rarely visits flowers. Instead, it prefers sap, juice from rotting fruit, dung, and carrion.

The tawny emperor is colored a warm orange brown above with golden patches and dark lines. Each hind wing has a row of solid eyespots along the outer edge. The undersides of the wings closely resemble the upper surfaces, but are lighter brown and have muted markings. Females are considerably larger than males and have broad, rounded wings. Males have more narrowed, triangular wings. The tawny emperor is at home in and around moist, rich woodlands where hackberry and sugarberry trees can be found. Adults are rapid, strong fliers and often difficult to approach. Males roost on sunlit leaves or on the sides of large trees and tend to dart out quickly at passing objects.

The cream colored eggs are laid in large cluster of up to several hundred on the underside of host plant leaves. The developing larvae remain together and feed communally through the first three instars (larval molts). The mature caterpillar is light green with broad, yellow stripes and a pair of short tails. The head bears two prominent branched starlike horns.

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