Gray Cracker (Hamadryas februa) life history
Gray Cracker (Hamadryas februa) Life History



First instar resting on leaf vein

Second instar

Third instar

Fourth instar

Fifth instar, "green" form

Fifth instar, dark form

Fifth instar, red form

Prepupal larva


Fresh adult female Gray Cracker, dorsum, 8-26-13

Fresh adult female Gray Cracker, ventrum, 8-26-13

In 2013, Gray Crackers started showing up in July, which was the earliest I had ever seen them. They continued to appear, often in good numbers, until late October. I had plenty of the host plant, Dalechampia scandens, growing in pots when they arrived, and it was the perfect opportunity to raise them.

In July I placed several adults in my greenhouse, where most of the Dalechampia was growing. It took about a week for them to start ovipositing. Later in the summer, after we had good rains, free-flying females also regularly deposited eggs on outside vines.

The caterpillars developed rapidly; they usually were entering the fourth instar only five days after eclosing from the egg. The first and second instars rested on a vein they cut out from a Dalechampia leaf. They decorated their bodies with frass, and sometimes extended the vein with a frass chain. The later instars did not show this behavior.

There was significant color variation in the final-instar caterpillars. They ranged (in general appearance) from green to red to black. Red was the most dominant color. (See the fifth instars picture to the right.) Adults also showed interesting differences in color. Gray predominated in the summer, but in the fall many adults had a beautiful rich tapestry of browns and blues added to the gray background.


Face of Gray Cracker

Numerous sources suggest that Gray Crackers will use Tragia (Noseburn) as a host plant. I had plenty on hand, but the caterpillars refused to eat it. They did eat Costa Rican Butterfly Vine (a cultivated Dalechampia species widely available). Cat Stevens of Edinburg, TX, raised some from eggs laid on a large vine in her yard.

Caterpillars emerged from the first eggs I obtained after about three days; they pupated about 2 weeks later. I was out of town and did not get to see the first generation emerge. In later broods, adults emerged about a week after pupation began.

Gray Cracker Page