Butterfly Gardening: Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

(The awesome Hackberry Emperor, Asterocampa celtis)

We don’t often think of trees when considering planning a butterfly garden, which is to overlook their importance as host plants for some caterpillars. Today let’s look at the Common Hackberry, also known as the American Hackberry.

A relative of the Elm tree, hackberry trees are adaptable to a wide range of light and moisture levels. Often planted for its purple-red fruit that attracts a wide variety of birds, hackberry can be used as a native alternative for Chinese and Siberian Elms.

(map of Celtis occidentalis from bonap.org: dark green squares mean the species is present in county and native, light green means species is present and not rare, yellow means species is present but rare, and blue means the species is native, but adventive in state)

Importance as a caterpillar food source: Hackberry trees provide many butterfly species with caterpillar food. Although the activity is usually high above easy viewing levels, some guidelines for caterpillar identification are:

  • Tawny Emperor caterpillars eggs are laid in large groups of 200 to 500 on hackberry bark or leaves. The young caterpillars feed in large groups.
  • Hackberry Emperor caterpillar eggs are laid in small groups ranging from one to twenty.
  • American Snout caterpillar eggs are laid in small groups.
  • Caterpillars of the Question Mark butterfly live alone on hackberry leaves.
  • Mourning Cloak caterpillars live together in a web while eating hackberry leaves.

Importance as a butterfly nectar source: Hackberry is used as a nectar source but its popularity varies by location.

The following article originally appeared in Butterfly Gardener (Vol. 14, Issue 1, Spring 2009). NABA member Lenora Larson has graciously allowed us to reprint it here.


Is there a perfect tree? Consider the magnificent hackberry tree, Celtis occidentalis. Many species of butterflies consider it the perfect caterpillar food plant, including the Question Mark, Mourning Cloak, Hackberry Emperor, Tawny Emperor and the darling American Snout. About every five years, we are blessed with huge eruptions of Hackberry Emperors. Leave your car window open, and fifty will perch on your steering wheel, enjoying its saltiness.

Birds also celebrate hackberry trees. Winter residents such as yellow-bellied sapsuckers, wild turkeys, and mockingbirds depend on the persistent berries. In fall and again in spring, great flocks of migrating cedar waxwings swoop onto the hackberry tree to gobble berries while discussing their journey in that distinctive musical twitter.Hackberry fruit And our beautiful fox squirrels eat both the leaf galls and the fruit. I have personally taste-tested the sweetness of the dark red berries, a thin flesh around a single nutlet.

Landscape designers effusively praise the hackberry tree and rate it “superior.” Like other members of the elm family, it creates a shady canopy, growing to 60 feet with a 40 to 50 foot spread. This American native’s resistance to pollution makes it the perfect urban tree. From zone 3 to Florida’s zone 9, hackberries flourish in any type of soil: acidic, alkaline, clay or loamy or sandy. Bring on the flood or the drought, hackberries thrive. Mature hackberry trees prefer full sun, but will grow in partial shade.

Garden designers yearn for four-season interest. The May flowers are an insignificant green, but the pale green spring leaves and yellow fall foliage are attractive.Hackberry Bark Even better, the “geographic” bark provides that scarcity, winter charm. Stomping through the snowy forest, a hiker can easily identify hackberry trees by the light gray bark arranged in deep, corky furrows that look like mountain ranges.

This beautiful native tree feeds animals, grows under tough conditions and harvests as attractive hardwood for furniture and flooring. How can we even question this tree’s perfection? In a word, berries. Hackberries. They are spread far and wide by birds and have at least a 300% germination rate. (OK. The book says 34%, but it seems like 300%). From June to October, I’m patrolling my gardens for seedlings. If you don’t tug the seedlings out the first year, they resist all but the strongest arm. And by the third year, even Round-up requires multiple applications to eradicate the pesky upstarts.

We were so close to perfection! Is there a solution? Yes, “stooling:” the cutting of trees and shrubs to the ground each winter. Butterflies agree with this strategy because the caterpillars prefer the tender leaves of the newly stooled growth to the tougher leaves of an adult tree. My one huge mature specimen keeps everyone provided with winter food. With sharp eyes and luck, all seedlings are eradicated each spring, except for a lucky few that choose their landing spot well. These are maintained as stooled specimens that don’t bear berries and provide succulent leaves for the caterpillars. Stooled specimens are short-lived and after four or five years, they give up in frustration over not being allowed to achieve their genetic potential. No problem, because I can count on the choice of hundreds of replacements each spring. Perfect!

Lenora Larson gardens and hosts butterflies in the cruel winds and clay soil of Eastern Kansas.


Common Hackberry Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone: 2 to 9
Bloom Period: Not applicable
Bloom Color: Not applicable
Plant Height: 60 to 100 feet
Plant Spread: Rounded crown
Light Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Moist but well drained
Animal/Pest Problems: None





Opportunities: Postdoctoral Position on Plant-Pollinator Interactions at Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research

Postdoctoral Position on Plant-Pollinator Interactions at Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research

Penn State’s Department of Entomology and Center for Pollinator Research seeks a Postdoctoral Research Associate to lead a USDA-SCRI funded project examining pollinator interactions with ornamental plant species. The candidate should have extensive experience in (1) working with honey bees (2) evaluating foraging behavior of bees (3) palynology and (4) use of molecular tools to identify plant species from pollen samples. The candidate should have excellent written and oral communication skills, the ability to collaborate with and coordinate the efforts of a large team of researchers from different universities, and a track record of publishing his/her work in scientific journals and presenting to broad audiences. Preference will be given to candidates with a PhD in Entomology, Biology, or related field. This is a one-year appointment, with possibility of extension. For more information, please contact Christina Grozinger, Professor, Department of Entomology, Penn State University, cmg25@psu.edu.

Apply at https://psu.jobs/job/67504

Humans of NABA: Alexander R. Meza

Our Humans of NABA series continues, with the National Butterfly Center’s groundskeeper and educator, Alexander R. Meza!


Six years ago I was a sales representative getting paid ten dollars an hour selling home décor internationally, inside an air conditioned office. Living inside for half a decade I became depressed and unsatisfied. My mind and body were thirsty for something new, something exciting.

One day a good friend of mine mentioned a bird walk at the National Butterfly Center and, thinking nothing of it, I decided to give it a try. The next day I chose to return to work and immediately announce my two-week notice.

It’s been almost one year, now, observing nature and all its wild creatures. Feeding Green Jays and fox squirrels every morning with wild seeds and making fresh banana brew for the emperors and crackers in the hackberry trail.

Working at the National Butterfly Center and with the Captain has awakened my passion for nature photography and has changed my life. It feels great tending to a plant and talking to it only to see it bloom for you the very next morning.

I believe that nature is my therapy. I feel spiritually connected to the plants and wildlife, and I feel God led me to volunteer here, which ultimately led to my permanent job. I love having picnics under the Monarch Palapa and seeing all the chachalacas and queens circle around me.

My goal is to travel not only South Texas, but the world photographing wildlife. I dream of capturing something no one has ever seen before with my camera. I want to go back to school and get a degree in ornithology and be known for environmental conservation. I hope to one day help the people of South Texas wake up and realize that the Valley is not a boring place, but a wonderful, magical place full of insects, mammals, colorful birds and reptiles.
I am doing my part to protect this land for future generations to come. Me and my camera will change the world.


Events: Broward County Butterfly Chapter meeting Nov. 15th

The Broward County Butterfly Chapter, BCBC, invites you to their Nov 15, 2016 meeting. Rose Bechard-Butman presents “How to Create a NatureScape, a Habitat to Attract Wildlife and Butterflies.” Rose is the NatureScape Broward Outreach Coordinator; a Certified Arborist; a Master Gardener and National Wildlife Habitat Steward. She serves on many local boards and organizes programs and community projects that support sustainable landscapes and wildlife habitats. Meeting starts: 7pm, social hour: 6.30pm at the Broward County Extension Office, 3245 College Ave., Davie, FL 33314. For further info visit our website: www.browardbutterflies.org or email BCBCmail@gmail.com.

Events: Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club


The Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club will start with a pot-luck supper at 5:30 pm on Saturday, October 22, at Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Visitor’s Center, 414 Massasoit Rd, Worcester, MA 01604. During this meeting we will celebrate the 25th ANNIVERSARY of the founding of the club. In lieu of a guest speaker, we’ll encourage attendees to reminisce about the special moments in the club’s history. Be prepared to share the funny, inspiring and meaningful experiences you’ve had that have made the club a special part of your life. And if you’re not a member of the club, you are most welcome to join us anyway if you’re interested in learning about this very special group of butterfly advocates

Taxonomy Tuesday: Lycaeninae (Coppers)

image(American Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, photographed by  Frank Model – 5/1/2007 Petersham, Massachusetts)

The first in our new series to better learn our butterfly taxonomy, we’ll take a look at the subfamliy of Lycaena, the gossamer-winged Coppers. Here’s a broad selection of them to check out! Notice the morphological similarities:


image(male Bronze Copper, Lycaena hyllus, photographed by Frank Model – 10/4/2007 in the Wayland Community Gardens, Wayland, Massachusetts)

image(female Bog Copper, Lycaena  epixanthe, taken 06/17/2010 in Ocean County, New Jersey)

Here’s the Massachusetts chapter’s big page on Coppers! Enjoy:





Butterfly Gardening: Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)


(Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar hanging out on its host plant Chamaecrista fasciculata)

Also known as Showy Partridge Pea, Sensitive Plant, and Sleepingplant, Patridge Pea is native from southern Florida to northern Minnesota, It looks best when planted in groups and is easy to include in most medium to large size gardens. A short-lived perennial that is grown as an annual, partridge pea has bright yellow flowers that incorporate easily into many garden border combinations. Try pairing with liatris for contrasting colors and plant forms.

Partridge pea also provides pollen for a number of other insects and birds relish the seed pods that follow the flowers.



(Via bonap.org, dark green areas represent where Partridge Pea is native, while light green areas represent where it is not native but common.)

Importance as a caterpillar food source: Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, and Little Yellow caterpillars all use partridge pea as a food source. All three of these butterflies range widely over the southern U.S., with Little Yellow’s range being restricted eastward.

Partridge pea is also used as a food source by Ceraunus Blue caterpillars which are common in far southern regions, usually late in the summer; found all year long in southern Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

Gray Hairstreak caterpillars also include partridge pea as a caterpillar food plant in addition to countless other plants.

Importance as a butterfly nectar source: A good nectar source that also attracts many pollinators in addition to butterflies.

Partridge Pea Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone: Plant annually
Bloom Period: Summer to fall
Bloom Color: Yellow
Plant Height: 24 to 40 inches
Plant Spread:18 inches
Light Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil Moisture: Medium to dry
Animal/Pest Problems: None


Humans of NABA: Nestor Gonzalez

Nestor Gonzalez — Groundskeeper and Educator at the National Butterfly Center

“From the blistering cold, busy streets of Boston to the muddy backroads of sunny South Texas, I have been able to adapt to both lifestyles; however, I must admit that I was born for the outdoors. From the moonlit wee hours of the morning spent feeding our livestock to long hours of labor under the scorching skies in the gardens, here, it’s all good.

For a few weeks my career path was in Banking and Money Management. That is, until the day I came across an ad on Craigslist. I was so interested I applied. Little did I expect they would call within a week to schedule my first interview.

I was a nervous wreck that day. I was ill prepared, but so excited to go to the National Butterfly Center. It was March of 2014 and it had been raining. I didn’t care. Dress shoes and all I went trucking through the muddy Hackberry Trail. I couldn’t believe I saw an armadillo and all types of butterflies that I never knew existed.
I’ve been here about a year and a half, and now I educate kids about tarantulas! How cool is that? I have an African Spurred Tortoise for a best friend; and although I am sometimes embarrassed to admit I love the birds and butterflies, I can actually name a few.”

[Mike: Pictured below, Nestor and family! And a hungry turtle!]



Opportunities: Technical Coordinator Contract for MAFWA Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy

Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy
Technical Coordinator Contract Description

The Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA) is seeking a contractor to provide technical coordination and plan-writing services to assist MAFWA’s member states, plus Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and other interested states with Monarch Conservation efforts. The successful candidate will be an independent contractor to MAFWA, eligible for monthly payments for work performed and for approved travel reimbursement; the position will not be eligible for benefits. To allow for better partnership and communication with the member states, the successful contractor will be provided office space in a state fish and wildlife office, ideally within the region (potential locations include Des Moines, IA; Lansing, MI; etc.) but location is negotiable, and provided with office equipment and support from that state.

MAFWA believes that the success of conserving the Monarch Butterfly will be dramatically improved if the many states engaged in conservation planning, implementation and monitoring are doing so in a coordinated way that both respects individual state autonomy and builds upon regional and national habitat and population goals. A hodge-podge of inconsistent state plans throughout the range of the eastern population of the Monarch Butterfly will not be as beneficial as a concerted and coordinated effort. Because of the importance of the region to monarch productivity and migration, it is likely that particular emphasis will be needed along what has come to be known as the “I-35 Corridor” and the Ohio River Valley – encompassing most of the MAFWA member states’ geography plus Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The primary goal of a state-drafted and -implemented Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy would be to account for the placement and priority of these efforts throughout the range through state fish and wildlife agencies, the organizations primarily responsible to manage wildlife and deliver wildlife conservation in the states. State fish and wildlife agencies are not only uniquely qualified to perform this work by virtue of their jurisdictions in state and federal law, but they are also connected to the myriad of partners and stakeholders engaged in and impacted by this work, including various conservation non-governmental organizations, transportation agencies, industrial and agricultural organizations, research institutions and other state agencies.

Looking forward, state fish and wildlife agencies will be able to utilize the Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy developed by this position to implement and monitor conservation actions on public lands and, through partners and stakeholders, additional private lands. This Strategy would contemplate considerations under the USFWS’s Policy for the Evaluation of Conservation Efforts (PECE Policy) regarding conservation actions which, if implemented, would potentially avoid the need to list the Monarch. However, if the USFWS determined that listing was warranted, the Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy could serve as a basis for developing a Recovery Plan, Habitat Conservation Plan, Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, or a Safe Harbor Agreement. Lessons learned in this effort may also help states as they address pollinator conservation more broadly in the future.

Scope of Services
Under the management of MAFWA’s Monarch Conservation Liaison and its Monarch Conservation Working Group, the contractor hired under this announcement, the Monarch Technical Coordinator, would provide the following services:
• Draft a Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy comprised primarily of state plans and as described in the background section above; provide reports and updates to and respond to inquiries as they may arise from various state and federal groups on the final Strategy
• Coordinate planning activities among the states consistent with agreed upon governance structures in drafting the Strategy
• Coordinate a steering committee comprised of technical staff to solicit input on planning efforts and share information among the technical resources that may be included in or considered by the Strategy
• Identify outreach efforts underway through various entities like the Monarch Joint Venture, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever and others and the state planning efforts to incorporate relevant elements in the Strategy
• Liaise with the MAFWA’s Monarch Conservation Liaison and AFWA’s Science Coordinator on state-led monarch conservation efforts and incorporate relevant actions into the Strategy
• Research, track and disseminate up-to-date information regarding relevant federal and state habitat conservation programs and policies related to monarch conservation. Provide information to lawmakers, congressional staff and agency leaders concerning legislation and policy, upon request.
• Represent, promote and act on behalf of MAFWA related to technical strategy development and coordination at national, regional and state meetings, including but not limited to: MAFWA Director’s annual conference, AWFA annual conference, and the North American Wildlife Conference. Host at least two meetings of state technical staff and other partners, both during the strategy development and upon completion, to seek input and provide guidance for implementation.
• Submit written monthly and annual activity reports MAFWA. Evaluate program milestones and recommend changes to initiative direction to the state agency directors as needed. Administer a budget that accounts for all expenditures and submit periodic budget reports.

All work shall be agreed upon and subject to an executed contract between the parties, based on the laws and jurisdiction of the state of Kansas, the state in which MAFWA is incorporated.

The ideal contractor would be able to start by December 15, 2016. The Strategy must be completed by March 1, 2018, to be presented at the North American Wildlife Conference in March of 2018. The contractor will then be available to deliver updates on and make any necessary refinements to the Strategy through June 30, 2018. The Contract will terminate June 30, 2018, unless terminated earlier in accordance with the contract.

The contractor must have graduated from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree in Wildlife Management, Entomology, Biological Sciences, or related field of study; and at least two years of professional experience in natural resources management or policy development. Additional consideration will be given to candidates with additional relevant experience, satisfactory performance of similar services, or education. A graduate degree in a related field is preferred and can be substituted for experience.

Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities of the Contractor: Current knowledge of monarch ecology and management; an understanding of the relevant national conservation programs and policies; ability to communicate and coordinate with a diverse array of federal, state, non-governmental, and constituency groups regarding policy, research, habitat conservation, and related issues, programs, and practices; ability to write, particularly technical planning documents; ability to use computer and basic office software; and ability to travel.

A not to exceed amount to be paid for services rendered under the resulting contract is expected to be $80,000 a year, pro-rated and payable in monthly installments. Additional pre-approved travel and material costs will be provided as required and authorized by the contract

How to Apply
Persons interested in this contract opportunity should submit a resume and cover letter to MAFWA’s Director-representative on Monarch Conservation, Kelley Myers, at Kelley.Myers@dnr.iowa.gov, by 4:00pm, Central Time, on October 24, 2016. Late submissions will not be considered. The resume and cover letter should address each of the qualifications included above. The cover letter should address the scope of services elements above; however, it is limited to not more than three pages. Potential contractors may be subject to an interview process.

Antidiscrimination Statement:
MAFWA is a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the state of Kansas and is funding this opportunity with funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Consistent with the laws of the state of Kansas and requirements of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, MAFWA does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, handicap and/or disability in any program or activity.

Education (Georgia Piedmont Chapter): Tunes, Wings and Smiles


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Tunes, Wings and Smiles

by Virginia C. Linch

Matt Rogers, local country singer on tour now, stopped by the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch pollinator habitat this week to the surprise of Mrs. Jill Turners 2nd grade Gatewood class. Many thanks to Sylbie Yon for coordinating this visit. Matt was sitting on PaPa’s Porch with guitar in hand ready to strum when the children ran down to greet him. Matt quickly launched into a great song about dragon flies and then had all clapping to his rendition of Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. Mrs. Turner had scheduled this tour of the habitat in conjunction with her teaching plan. The children were shown many different species of butterflies in different stages by habitat project leader, Virginia C. Linch. Each child was given a Georgia Butterfly ID guide and a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar to watch change in their classroom.

You can visit the Georgia Piedmont chapter website at http://nabageorgia.weebly.com.