Tawny Emperor: # 16 of “23 Butterflies in 2023”

Leonard Weber

April 26, 2023

Tawny Emperor, a butterfly with a 2-inch wingspan, is not one of the most common butterflies of Eliza Howell Park. In a typical year, however, it can be seen occasionally from late June to August. It is quite irresistible, especially when it is positioned with the wings open.

Tawny Emperors do not usually visit flowers for nectar, but they can be spotted in the wildflower field at the peak of the flowering season. They are a forest edge species and this field is close to the woodland.

They vary slightly in appearance. Compare the above one with this one.

There is only one brood per year. They survive the winter in the caterpillar stage, completing development in the spring. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of Hackberry trees, which are fairly common in the woods of Eliza Howell Park.

It looks like this when the wings are closed.

Detroit is at the very northern edge of its usual range. Most Michigan butterfly watchers do not have the same opportunity to observe it as we do here.

Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America

There is another Emperor butterfly found in Eliza Howell Park: Hackberry Emperor. It too feeds on Hackberry leaves as a caterpillar and it too shows up periodically in the park every year.

Hackberry Emperor

I considered the possibility of featuring Hackberry Emperor instead of Tawny Emperor in this series. (Doing both would not have allowed all the other species that should be included.) I confess that I selected Tawny on the basis of personal attraction — I get more excited when I see one!

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