King Cracker

Courtney Quigley —  August 18, 2013 — 1 Comment

The king cracker (Hamadryas amphinome) is our featured butterfly this week. 

The king cracker is part of a larger group of butterflies called crackers because of the sound males make with their wings when they fly. You guessed it, they make a cracking sound! Only males can make the sound, but both males and females can detect it. We still don’t know why they make a cracking noise; perhaps it has to do with mating, or maybe to deter a potential predator. Regardless, it is fun to hear!

PHOTO: King Cracker butterfly

King cracker male (Hamadryas amphinome)
Photo by Bill Bishoff

The king cracker is native to Mexico and Peru, but has been spotted in the southern United States as well. It has a very unique color pattern that is truly remarkable to see. On the top of its wings is a stunning blue and white calico pattern. Underneath is a brilliant brick-colored patch that gives the butterfly its other common name, red cracker.  

The king cracker is a master of disguise. The mottled blue and white tones allow it to blend easily into the bark on trees. Tree trunks are a favorite resting spot for king crackers and they, unlike most butterflies, rest with their wings open; ready to take flight at any moment. Even the the pupae are disguised to look like withered leaves.

Another interesting fact about the king cracker is that it feeds mainly on decomposing fruit and not nectar. It is easy to spot a king cracker grabbing a quick bite on any of our four feeding dishes. So come on out to the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition and see if you can see or hear one today!


©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Courtney Quigley

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Horticulturist Courtney Quigley can be found in the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition, where she curates the species featured; mounts and tends the chrysalises, cocoons, and hatching butterflies and moths; and generally deals with all things Lepidoptera.

One response to King Cracker

  1. We thoroughly enjoyed our recent visit to the Botanic Gardens, and especially loved the butterfly exhibit. We all learned so much and were very impressed with the knowledge of the folks who work with the butterflies.

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