We had a special week at Butterfly Ridge from the butterfly sightings perspective. In one week we observed Tawny Emperor, Hackberry Emperor, and American Snout. The latter two were new to our species list.
All three of these use hackberry (Celtis sp.) as their caterpillar host plants. The ironic thing is that we have no hackberry growing at Butterfly Ridge! So where did they come from?
Perhaps a neighboring property has hackberry and they have traveled in from there. The American Snout is known to emigrate relatively long distances from the southern United States. Perhaps the Snout arrived from Tennessee, Kentucky, or elsewhere in the south. Snout is relatively uncommon in southeastern Ohio. The one pictured below is only the third or fourth that I have seen in Ohio, although they are quite common in the desert Southwest.
The Hackberry Emperor, despite being new for our list was not especially shocking. I have seen Hackberry elsewhere in Ohio, just never at Butterfly Ridge. It made sense that eventually one would wonder through. Although for the week I actually saw two individuals.
We have observed Tawny Emperor at Butterfly Ridge for three years in a row now. I wonder if perhaps they also use elm as a host, it being in the same plant family as hackberry.
The emperors are fun butterflies to have around. They are very social, although I suspect their "socialness" is actually more of a territoriality. If you have ever had a brown butterfly land on you on a hot summer day, odds are it was one of the emperors. Or maybe, rather than being social, it was a male sucking the sweat off of you. They are notorious for that as well!