Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 3/8 - 2 1/2 inches (3.5 - 6.3 cm). The upperside is reddish brown. The forewing has 1 eyespot and a cluster of white spots near the tip.  Undersurfaces are more muted in color and the hindwing has a row of yellow-rimmed black spots near the outer edge. Sexes are similarly marked, but females have broader wings.

ID Tip: Dorsal forewing tips are dark with a spangling of white dots and a black eyespot. 

Egg: Tiny, creamy white globes laid singly or in very small clusters on host leaves

Caterpillar:  Light green with two narrow stripes and numerous yellow spots. Head is dark and bears two stubby, antler-like horns.  There is a pair of short tails on the rear. In late fall, half-grown caterpillars turn brown and group together inside curled hackberry leaves.  They are the overwintering stage.

Chrysalis: Coloration matches that of a hackberry leaf, to which it is usually attached.  There is a ridged back and a sharp horn on the head.

Hackberry Emperors often hitchhike on sweaty arms or perspiration-soaked clothing.  Males are territorial and stake out particular perches, returning to the same one again and again. Females typically remain higher in trees.  These butterflies often perch head down on the sides of various vertical surfaces: tree trunks, buildings, fence posts, Hackberry Emperors rarely nectar at flowers, preferring sap, fruit, detritus, and damp dirt instead.

Look for Hackberry Emperors wherever significant stands of hackberry trees occur.  They are widespread in Alabama, and it is expected that they will eventually be documented in every county in the state.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Chilton, Choctaw, Colbert, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Franklin, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Lowndes, Madison, Marengo, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Shelby, Sumter, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Wilcox, Winston

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 6 2 21 109 20 40 68 15 12 21 39 71 48 38 49 6 25 70 76 192 66 44 13 6 2 1

Habitat

Low-lying woods, but also drier, upland areas. Parks and yards.

Host and Nectar Plants

Various hackberries (Celtis spp.) are reported throughout its range.

This host plant has been verified in Alabama: Sugarberry/Southern Hackberry (Celtis laevigata).

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Including hackberry trees in the landscape provides caterpillar food for at least 6 butterfly species, including Hackberry Emperors.