Thursday, June 7, 2012


I don't believe I've ever thought of any butterfly as being "pugnacious." Yet that's exactly how the Ohio Division of Wildlife's handy little field guide, Butterflies and Skippers of Ohio, characterizes the Hackberry Emperor—"very active and pugnacious." 

The very active part I wholeheartedly agree on—having chased the fellow whose portrait appears above around the yard for some half hour before he deigned to park momentarily in the grass, wings opened, long enough for me to focus and snap. 

As their name implies, Hackberry Emperors (Asterocampa celtis) are seldom found far from their namesake host tree. And since hackberry trees mainly occur along streams and adjacent moist bottoms, as well as overgrown field borders and the succession edges of drier woodlands, they're one of the more common species here along the riverbank. While the caterpillars feed on the various species of hackberry trees, the adult butterflies prefer sap, rotting fruit, carrion, and dung. Mummmmm! They're also fond of lighting on your arm and lapping up sweat salts. Double-mummmmm

I'm still not sure about that pugnacious business. But I am certain this friendly and seemingly curious butterfly is a subtle beauty, understated but classy, lively, and one of my favorites.


The Weaver of Grass said...

I like its understatedness Grizz - I love these subtle shades so much better than the showy peacock butterflies we get here. Unless it actually attacks you I wouldn't call it pugnacious.

Grizz………… said...


There's quite a color variation among Hackberry Emperors—some more colorful than the one in the photo, others more monotoned. This one is typical for what I see around here, and I think it's rather lovely.

Nope, don't see "pugnacious" either.

Rowan said...

Photographing butterflies is hard work! Some never seem to settle at all but this handsome specimen seems to be have been co-operative eventually. Must say that pugnacious isn't a word I'd associate with a butterfly but maybe they defend their territory against invasion by other Hackberry Emperors?

Grizz………… said...


I spent most of today in the fields, part of the time photographing butterflies…although today was rather windy, which—along with uncooperative subjects who kept fluttering elsewhere—really frustrating. But fun, in a masochistic sort of way.

Butterflies can be rather territorial and defensive, ina butterfly sort of way, but I think in the Hackberry Emperor's case, the term was used simply because they'll often dart from the shadow and alight on folks—especially if they're wearing something white. Unintimidated, maybe…curious…friendly…but pugnacious? Nahhhhh.