Description 1 3/4 - 2 1/4" (41-57mm). Above, eastern race male medium brown to grayish brown, female lighter and brighter. Forewings blackish on outer half, with numerous white spots
and one large, oval, black eyespot. Hindwings yellow-brown on outer half, with several large oval eyespots (usually totally black but sometimes with light centers). Forewings of males narrower and more pointed than female's. Below, both wings have a complicated pattern of light and dark, purplish-brown and off-white bars, stripes, and patches. Curving row of several light-centered eyespots on hindwings. Western and Gulf Coast races brighter above, often with light-centered eyespots above.
Similar Species The Tawny Emperor has bright tawny forewings above, lacking any dark eyespot. The Empress Leilia is warmer brown above than Hackberry Emperor, with two dark, oval eyespots on forewings.
Life Cycle Egg yellowish-white and ridged, laid singly or in very small groups. Caterpillar green, with yellow stripes and dots. The end of the caterpillar is forked and the head bears two slight, branched projections (much larger in similar Tawny Emperor). Light green to dark green chrysalis has two horns and a sharp keel. Late season caterpillars turn brown before overwintering. In the spring they regain their green color and continue growing before pupating. Host plants
are various species of Hackberry (Celtis).
Flight Two or more broods from spring to fall, depending upon latitude.
Habitat Woodlands, canyons, and parks where hackberries grow.
Range Colorado east to Massachusetts, south to Arizona and Gulf States.
Discussion Hackberry Emperors may be frustratingly difficult to see, sailing about and perching in the canopies of tall hackberries or they may glide or flash down to a few feet off the ground and actually land on you. While these are both characteristic behaviors, the latter is much more satisfying for butterfly watchers.