Butterflies of Mexico, USA & Canada
Feronia Cracker
Hamadryas feronia   LINNAEUS, 1758
subfamily - BIBLIDINAE
subtribe - AGERONIINA

Hamadryas feronia in typical posture on tree trunk  Adrian Hoskins
There are 20 members of the genus Hamadryas. Most are found only in Central and South America, although 8 have been recorded sporadically in the southern USA.
The butterflies are commonly known as Crackers due to the ability of the males of several species to produce a sound similar to the crackling of bacon in a frying pan. The sound is produced as the butterflies take off, and is made by twanging a pair of spiny rods at the tip of the abdomen against bristles on the anal claspers. Only males can produce the sound, but both sexes can detect it - their wings have tiny hollow cells covered in membranes that vibrate in response to sound, and stimulate nerve endings. The purpose of the sound is not known. It may possibly deter competing males from occupying the same territory, or could act as a trigger to initiate the first response from a female during courtship.
All Hamadryas species have a beautiful calico pattern on the upperside. In many there is a series of submarginal ocelli on the hindwings, and distinct kidney-shaped stigmata in the discal cells of fore and hind wings. In several species such as februa and glauconome the ground colour is greyish and the pattern acts as an extremely effective camouflage against the bark of trees. In others such as amphinome, laodamia and velutina the wings are velvety black with a blue sheen and a pattern of bright blue spots.
Photographing Hamadryas can be a frustrating experience, as both sexes spend most of their time basking high up on tree trunks, often 10 metres or more above the ground. They sit there for hours  with wings outspread, always facing downwards to keep a watchful eye for potential mates. At times they descend and bask much lower down, at a height of just a couple of metres, but at the slightest disturbance they immediately fly back to the tree top. They remain there until the intruder has left the vicinity, and then descend the tree trunk in a series of short hopping flights, dropping a short distance each time until after half an hour or so they have resumed their original position.
Hamadryas feronia is easily confused with februa, but the latter has red crescents within the ocelli on the hindwings. Hamadryas feronia is distributed from the southern United States to Paraguay.

Hamadryas feronia  Adrian Hoskins
This species is found in rainforest and deciduous forest habitats at altitudes between 0-1400m.
The caterpillar when fully grown is bluish-black, with whitish dots and a reddish lateral line, and has multi-branched spines that are black except for those on the middle section which are yellow. There is also apparently another form which is greyish-green colour marked with a pale greenish broken lateral line. They larvae feed gregariously on the vines Dalechampia triphylla or D. stenosepala depending on location. The chrysalis strongly resembles a small withered leaf. It varies in colour from green to dark brown, and has a pair of long flattened wavy head horns.

Hamadryas feronia  Adrian Hoskins
Adult behaviour

Like all Hamadryas species feronia habitually basks on tree trunks in a head-downward position and with the wings flattened against the bark. They will bask in this position for long periods to await potential mates. They commonly settle at a height of about 2 metres but if disturbed by humans they fly up and resettle higher up, either on the same tree or on another nearby. They remain high in the trees until the intruder leaves, and then descend the tree trunk in a series of short flights, dropping a short distance each time until after several minutes they resume their original position.

The butterflies are active from sunrise to sunset, and are rarely seen away from tree trunks, but also sometimes bask on rock faces or tree foliage.



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