Clouded Sulphur

Colias philodice

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image of a Clouded Sulphur on a wildflower
The clouded sulphur is one of our most common butterflies, flying low over fields and lawns, from late March into December.
Donna Brunet
Other Common Name
Common Sulphur
Family

Pieridae (whites, sulphurs, yellows)

Description

Adult male clouded sulphurs are yellow and the wings have a distinct black border. Females are duller, and the black border of their wings has yellow spots. Albino females are common. All adults have one black spot on each forewing and faint orange spots on the hindwings. When wings are folded, the black border is concealed, but you can see a silver spot outlined in pink on each hindwing.

Larvae are slender and green with a darker dorsal line and a white or yellowish stripe along each side. There is sometimes a rosy tint on the body.

Size

Wingspan: 1–2 inches.

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Image of sulphur butterflies
Sulphur Butterflies
Adult sulphurs often congregate at mud puddles to extract valuable moisture and minerals.

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Clouded Sulphur
Clouded Sulphur
Habitat and conservation

Common in fields and yards, the clouded sulphur is attracted to mud puddles and visits many flowers.

Foods

Larvae eat leafy members of the bean or pea family, particularly clovers. Adults drink nectar from a variety of flowers, including clovers and milkweeds, plus dandelions, thistles, and other members of the sunflower family. Adults often congregate at mud puddles and even animal excrement to extract valuable moisture and minerals.

image of Clouded Sulphur Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Common, resident species, but not as abundant as the related alfalfa butterfly.

Life cycle

Adults fly from late March into December. There are at least three broods a year.

Human connections

In addition to their considerable aesthetic value, butterflies pollinate plants, many of which have commercial importance. Additionally, because butterflies are sensitive to toxins and disturbance, they are good indicators of the overall status of ecosystems.

The word “butterfly” probably originated because of the yellow color of European sulphurs.

Ecosystem connections

The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators.