New Jersey Butterflies

Hackberry Emperor

Asterocampa celtis

Identification: Small—2.0. Above: FW and HW light brown. FW with bright white spots on blackish wingtip and one prominent black eyespot along outer edge. Innermost of 2 bars extending in from leading edge is broken (think, "hacked") into 2 spots. HW with row of black spots inward from margin. Below: FW and HW with complicated sepia-toned pattern; prominent series of pale-centered eye spots in HW and one light and one black eyespot near trailing edge of FW.

NJ Status and Distribution: Resident. Uncommon but widespread.

NJ Range Map-Hackberry Emperor

Habitat: Deciduous forest edges and openings with the food plant. Can be attracted to gardens with overripe fruit. Most often seen on bare ground and on roads, including paved roads.

Flight Period: Two broods, the first from early June to mid-July; and a smaller emergence from August to October. Extreme dates: North Jersey 5/30—10/10; South Jersey 5/30—10/9.

Larval Food Plants: Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), a fairly common tree of woodlands on sandy soils, limestone soils, and floodplains.

Overwintering Stage: Larva.

Best Locations: Delaware Water Gap NRA (near the river), Whittingham WMA, Higbee Beach WMA, and Sandy Hook GNRA.

Comments: You will know pretty quickly if you are in the presence of this attractive butterfly. No sooner are you out of your car than one will land on your skin or clothes, probing away with its green proboscis. For this reason we informally call this species the "hackberry greeter."

Hackberry Emperor

Appalachian Trail Lands (Canal Road), Sussex Co., NJ, 6/10/11.

Hackberry Emperor

Vernon, Sussex Co., NJ, 6/16/08.

Hackberry Emperor larva

Late-instar larva of Hackberry Emperor.


Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), the caterpillar food plant.