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Clouded Sulphur

Common Name: Clouded Sulphur.

Scientific Name: Colias Philodice.

What to look for?  Clouded Sulphur is a medium sized, light yellow butterfly. The wings may be colored differently on the upper-side and the under-side. The wings are a bright, clear yellow on the upper surface. The lower side of forewing has some dark submarginal spots.  The wings of males have solid black borders, whereas the female has spotted black borders. The "face" is interesting with wide lime green eyes with the tiny black eye. And the Clouded Sulphur has two reddish-green antennae. The larval caterpillar is green with a white stripe on each side of the body.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Clouded Sulphur will be one of the first butterflies that appear and will usually be found here from early spring into late fall. Look for them around the milkweeds and other wildflowers around our pond banks.

How big are they? The Clouded Sulphur averages one inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately two (2) to three (3) inches. The Clouded Sulphur as a caterpillar can grow to approximately one and three-fourths of an inch in length.

What are their flight patterns? The flight pattern of Clouded Sulphurs is fairly rapid and sometimes erratic. They usually stay within three feet of the ground.

How else do they behave? Clouded Sulphurs are well known for their “mud-puddling” behavior, where they gather together to sip from the mud in wet places.

What’s for dinner? Butterflies and moths have a different diet during their larval caterpillar phase than they do as winged adults. Adult Clouded Sulphurs prefer nectar from plants such as milkweed, alfalfa, and clovers. Clouded Sulphur caterpillars dine on legumes and other plants such as vetch, clovers, wild indigo, wild pea, trefoil, lupine, alfalfa, and white sweet clover.

Where do they take up residence? The Clouded Sulphur resides across most of the U.S., except California and southern regions of Texas and Florida. They are found in moist meadows and fields where host plants thrive.

When and where do they breed and nest? Remember the life cycle of a butterfly: (1) eggs, (2) larval state as caterpillar, (3) pupa state in chrysalis or cocoon, and (4) butterfly. With an average lifespan of less than one (1) week, Clouded Sulphurs continuously mate such that there are several broods of Clouded Sulphurs from spring until fall. The female Clouded Sulphur lays a single egg on each host, usually in the pea family including alfalfa, white clover, and pea. When the caterpillars hatch in about five days, they eat the leaves of the host plant. The caterpillars pupate and emerge as butterflies in approximately three weeks. In Illinois, there are typically three broods per year with adults flying from late March into December. The third-generation caterpillar will hibernate or overwinter before emerging to mate in the spring.

Where do they migrate? Clouded Sulphurs do not migrate.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Clouded Sulphur:

  • The lifespan of a Clouded Sulphur butterfly is approximately one week!

  • Clouded Sulphurs can often be seen in clusters around water puddles.

  • Prior to emerging as a butterfly, the green chrysalis turns yellow with a pink ‘zipper’.

  • The young larvae are cannibalistic and, given a chance, will eat one another!

For more information on the Clouded Sulphur and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Butterflies and Moths of North America, Wisconsin Butterflies, University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web, and Insect Identification for the Casual Observer.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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