Posts Tagged ‘sap flow’

Two Tawny Emperors

 The more studying I do, the more confused I get.


 Tawny emperor butterflies lay their eggs in hackberry trees.


The butterflies sip nectar from flowers and will also feed on rotting fruit.


Hackberry butterflies will land on me for the sweat.


Both are “sap-flow” butterflies too, meaning they also feed on rotting fruit.

Both the tawny emperors and hackberry butterflies lay their eggs on leaves in the hackberry trees.

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Now for my problem. When I found this caterpillar on the side of the house, I thought for sure it was a tawny emperor caterpillar. Then I started researching it.

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Seems they’re hard to distinguish them from that of the hackberry butterfly.

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  Their pattern changes as they grow.  Two stripes along the body turn yellow. So, since they’re hard to distinguish one from the other, I’ll just enjoy each encounter.

Tawny emperor butterflies visit flowers.


Hackberry butterflies go more for the rotting fruit, and other things like, ugh, animal droppings. I smash rotten bananas on the cistern where I can watch the activity from the picture window by my computer. The large tree in the picture is a hackberry tree.

Swinging Caterpillar

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I realize this picture is far from being a good picture … it is better than the next one.

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Take into account the 3/4 inch caterpillar hung from a strand of silk, blowing in the wind. I had to hold my hand behind the swinging caterpillar so the camera had a chance of focusing on the caterpillar.

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Caterpillars of the hackberry butterfly feed on leaves of the hackberry tree.

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Hackberry butterflies (Asterocampa celtis) visit moist places, tree sap, rotting fruit and even animal droppings.

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 They will also land on me for the sweat.

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It could also be the caterpillar of the tawny emperor butterfly (Asterocampa clyton). Both have green caterpillars with a slight variation of yellow striping on their back.

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Both species should begin flying around the first of June.

Pear Central

This pear tree used to be a hub of activity as the pears rotted.

Butterflies sipped from the pears rotting in the tree,

Hackberry butterfly

  from ones laying on the ground,

Question mark butterfly

and those lodged in the tree.

There’s a large family of butterflies, called brushfoots, that prefer to feed on rotting fruit and sap flows. Most will feed on flowers too. They’re called brushfoots because their front pair of legs is greatly reduced, making them look like they have 2 pairs of legs instead of 3.

Red-spotted purple butterfly

And more red-spotted purples

Viceroy butterfly


Obviously, viceroys closely resemble monarch butterflies. The way to tell them apart, is by the extra black band on the hindwing.

Buckeye butterfly

Lower one hackberry butterfly, other a tawny emperor butterfly

Tawny emperor on left and question mark butterfly on right. Note the silver “question mark” on its hindwing

Hackberry butterflies commonly landed on me for the salt in my sweat

The beginnings of the pear/butterfly “season”

The pears fermented, and this led to inebriated butterflies. It was funny watching some walking in the grass. It also made them calmer around people.

Wasps and ants enjoyed the fruit

The pears attracted nighttime insects too. I had to use a flashlight so I could focus the camera to take the following pictures.


Daddy long legs

Two moths

If you have a lot of butterflies in your yard, you can still attract them with fruit. I put overripe grapes on the cistern along with melon rinds. Any fruit and a lot of sunshine will attract any brushfoot butterflies in the area.

It was a sad day when I realized the pear tree was dying. It will be left standing as long as there’s anything left standing. It’s now the birds’ favorite perch.