orange sulphur

(Colias eurytheme)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

orange sulphur

NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNA - Not applicable

Minnesota

not listed

Occurrence

Common and abundant. An agricultural pest in alfalfa agricultural fields.

Flight/Season

Two or three overlapping broods per year: May to late October.

  Photo by Tom Baker
Habitat

Meadows, fields, lawns, roadsides, and other open areas.

Size

Wingspan: 1 to 2¾

 
 
Identification

This is a medium-sized butterfly with a 1 to 2¾ wingspan.

This butterfly rarely lands with wings open. On the male the upperside of both wings are yellow with a wide, solid, black border at the outer margins. There is a black blush extending outward from the basal area near the body to the medial area, and a small to large bright orange area extending from the basal area toward the black border. The upperside is often mostly or completely orange inside the borders. In the spring and early summer of years with colder temperatures, the upperside is often mostly yellow with only a small blush of orange in the basal area. There is always at least some orange on the wing upperside. On the forewing there is a small black spot at the end of the forewing cell. On the hindwing there is a small, bright orange, median spot. The veins are yellow, including within the black border. On the female the black border is wider and has several yellow spots.

The underside of both wings is yellow or greenish-yellow with a pinkish-white fringe. There is often orange in the basal and median areas of the forewing, but it may be covered by the hindwing and difficult to see. On the forewing there is a small black spot with a white center at the end of the forewing cell. On the hindwing there is a small, white, median spot outlined in brown, with a similar, tiny spot just above it. Both wings usually show a row of small, faint, black or brown, submarginal spots. There is no black border on the wing undersides, but the upperside border shows through when the butterfly is backlit.

There is also a white-form female with greenish-white wings that is very common, at least in Minnesota.

The eyes are green.

The caterpillar is green and up to 1 long. As with all caterpillars, there is a row of small, oval to round openings (spiracles) on the on each side of the body. The spiracles appear on the first segment of the thorax and the first through eighth segments of the abdomen. There is a white stripe in this spiracular area extending from just behind the head to the anal plate. The stripe is edged in black or dark green at the bottom and may have a thin bar of pink or orange in the center. The entire body, including the head, is moderately covered with short, straight, white hairs (seta) that may not be visible without a hand lens.

 
Similar
Species

Clouded sulphur (Colias philodice) has no orange on the wings.

Pink-edged sulphur (Colias interior) has no orange on the wings. The median spot on the hindwing does not have a tiny similar spot above it. There is no row of submarginal spots on either wing.

 
Larval Food

White clover (Trifolium repens) and sweet clover (Melilotus spp) are the preferred hosts. Other foods include Alfalfa (Medicago sativa ssp. sativa), bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus var. corniculatus), vetches (Vicia), and other plants in the pea family (Fabaceae).

 
Adult Food

Flower nectar

 
Life Cycle

Males patrol in search of receptive females. Females lay pale eggs singly on the upper side of leaflets on host plants.

The last brood overwinters as pupae.

 
Behavior

Caterpillars usually feed only at night.

 
Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 7, 20, 21, 29, 71.
 
Comments

This is one of the most common butterflies in North America.

 
Taxonomy

Order:

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)

 

Suborder:

Glossata

 

Infraorder:

Neolepidoptera

 

Parvorder:

Heteroneura

 

No Rank:

Ditrysia

 

No Rank:

Obtectomera

 

Superfamily:

Papilionoidea (butterflies [excluding skippers])

 

Family:

Pieridae (whites, yellows and sulphurs)

 

Subfamily:

Coliadinae (sulphurs and yellows)

 

Tribe:

Coliadini

 
Synonyms

 

 
Common
Names

alfalfa butterfly

alfalfa caterpillar (larva)

orange sulphur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Seta

A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like structure on butterflies and moths used to sense touch. Plural: setae.

 

Spiracle

A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       
Visitor Photos
   
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K Helms
       

There must have been 100’s of them on about a 1 mile section of the trail past Eagle Lake. Here’s a photo of 2 wing parts I picked up off the trail.

  orange sulphur    
       
Tom Baker
       
  orange sulphur   orange sulphur
       
  orange sulphur   orange sulphur
       
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
   
  orange sulphur   orange sulphur
       
  orange sulphur    
       
       

 

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Slideshows
   
  Orange Sulphur
DianesDigitals
 
  Orange Sulphur  
 
About

Copyright DianesDigitals

Colias eurytheme

 
     
  Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Bill Keim
 
  Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)  
     
  Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulphur)
Allen Chartier
 
  Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulphur)  
     
  Orange Sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme)
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
 
  Orange Sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme)  

 

slideshow

       
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Other Videos
 
  Orange Sulphur
JVMNatu
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 7, 2012

Colias eurytheme mating

   
       
  Orange Sulfur or Alfalfa Butterfly
laspilitas
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Oct 17, 2008

Orange Sulfur or Alfalfa Butterfly, Colias eurytheme, on Rabbit Brush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus at Las Pilitas Nursery

   
       

 

Camcorder

         
Visitor Sightings
   
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K Helms
8/4/2020

Location: Sakatah Bike Trail

There must have been 100’s of them on about a 1 mile section of the trail past Eagle Lake. Here’s a photo of 2 wing parts I picked up off the trail.

orange sulphur


     
     
 
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