Jun 02 2012
This morning I’m taking a break from peregrines to look at a butterfly found in southwestern Pennsylvania, though we don’t often notice him.
The Hackberry Emperor doesn’t stand out like a monarch butterfly because he’s not poisonous like they are. Instead he matches his habitat and flies quickly and erratically to outmaneuver the birds that want to eat him.
He is twice named for his favorite food. In the caterpillar stage the Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis) eats trees and shrubs in the hackberry (Celtis) genus.
Last winter I found many northern hackberry trees in Schenley Park so I’d expect to find these butterflies there, but they’re hiding. They rest upside down on tree trunks and look like bark.
The adults eat sap, dung, rotting fruit and carrion and will sip moisture where they find it.
On a hot day at Buck Run last weekend, this one sipped the sweat from Bob Machesney’s hand. Dianne took his picture.
(photo by Dianne Machesney)