North American Butterflies and Moths List

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

The Registry of Nature Habitats

U.S. Geological Survey

Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of Northern Mexico

Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)
JPG -- species photo

Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton [Boisduval & LeConte])

Wing span: 1 5/8 - 2 3/4 inches (4.2 - 7 cm).

Identification: Geographically variable. Upperside is chestnut brown; forewing with 2 brown bars in the cell, no white spots, and no eyespots near the outer margin. Hindwing uppersides are orange with black submarginal spots in one form, and all black in the other form.

Life history: Males perch on trees in full sun to watch for females. Eggs are laid in large groups of 200-500 on bark or the underside of mature leaves of host plants. Caterpillars eat leaves and young ones feed gregariously. Third-stage caterpillars hibernate in groups of about 10 inside a dead curled leaf.

Flight: One brood in the north from June-August, two broods in the south from March-November.

Caterpillar hosts: Trees of the elm family including Celtis occidentalis, C. tenuifolia, C. laevigata, C. lindheimeri, and C. reticulata.

Adult food: Tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, carrion. Tawny Emperors almost never visit flowers.

Habitat: Densely wooded riparian areas, dry woods, open woods, cities, fencerows, parks.

Range: North Dakota south to Texas, east to New England through most of the southeastern states. Isolated populations in Florida, southwest New Mexico, and southeastern Arizona.

Conservation: Not usually of ocnservation concern.

The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

Management needs: None reported.


Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns 
     Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates.

Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson 
     field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, 
     Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.

Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., 
     Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

State and Regional References:

Opler, Paul A. 1999. Peterson Field Guide to Western Butterflies, revised 
     edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass.

Stanford, R.E. and P.A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western USA Butterflies. 
     Privately published, Denver, Colo.
Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)
distribution map
map legend

Return to species list
Return to Butterflies of North America main page