Tawny Emperor

Asterocampa clyton

Throughout most of the eastern United States the Tawny Emperor and the Hackberry Emperor are found in association with their host plant, Hackberry. Both species may be often seen flying erratically around the host trees or getting minerals and moisture from the ground. Both species also readily land on a butterfly watcher. The Tawny Emperor rarely visits flowers for nectar.

Weekly sightings for Tawny Emperor

Identifying characteristics

An orange brown background color, very similar to the Hackberry Emperor. The Tawny is best described by how it differs from the Hackberry Emperor, the more common of the two species in Wisconsin. The Tawny Emperor lacks the distinct submarginal spot above, and one cell bar in the front wing is broken. Beneath, the Tawny Emperor has a row of eyespots, but these spots may become obscured in darker individuals.

Similar species

The Hackberry Emperor is very similar and, like the Tawny, is somewhat variable in its coloration. The Hackberry Emperor above has one cell bar on the front wing that is broken and has a very prominent submarginal spot, both of which are lacking in the Tawny Emperor.


Rich woods or parks where Hackberry grows.


Two flights in Wisconsin. Late June and then in August.


Not usually as abundant as the Hackberry Emperor, but where one species is found the chances are good that the Tawny Emperor is also present.

Early Tawny Emperor Sightings

Date County Reported by
Jun 8, 2012 Sauk Ann Thering
Jun 11, 2007 Grant Todd Sima
Jun 14, 2012 Grant Karl and Dorothy Legler
Jun 15, 2021 Dane John Morrissey
Jun 15, 2007 Lafayette Todd Sima


Map showing sighting locations for Tawny Emperor
Map key
Tawny EmperorClick to enlarge

Morse Rd., near Rocky Run Creek Wildlife Area, Columbia Co., WI, June 30, 2004.

Tawny Emperor

Photo © 2003 tom lewis

Murray Park, Little Rock, AR. September 20, 2003.

Tawny EmperorClick to enlarge

Hardscrabble SNA, Lafayette Co., WI, July 28, 2005.