Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 3/8 to 17/8 inches (3.5-4.8 cm).  Basically an orange butterfly with black borders. There is a small black dash (or "sleepy eye" mark) near the middle in the upper forewing.  Males are uniformly orange on upperside.  Females are paler and somewhat streaked. Both sexes have a long, brownish smudged line on the outer hindwing. There are two seasonal color forms: underside hindwings are yellow in the summer form and brick red in winter form.

ID Tip:  Color varies seasonally, but diagonal brown marking on ventral hindwing persists.

Egg: Spindle-shaped. White when laid but quickly turns yellow.  Laid singly on host plant.

Caterpillar: Caterpillars are green with narrow white stripes on the sides and very short hairs.

Chrysalis: Typically green although some may have dark markings.  Has a flattened appearance and a long point on head.




Anyone who has ever watched a Sleepy Orange zip through a field or dart across a road knows there is nothing “sleepy” about its behavior.  It is enlightening to learn that the name’s origin derives from wing pattern rather than flight speed.  The small black crescents that mark the forewing resemble closed or “sleepy” eyes.  “Rambling” Orange” has been proposed a more logical name since, like all sulphurs, Sleepy Oranges seldom hold their wings where the “sleepy” field marks are visible.

In Alabama, Sleepy Oranges are widespread and common.  Although they are not completely cold tolerant, they appear to be hardier than many of their yellow cousins and are sometimes encountered in early spring.  Early in the year single butterflies are often seen flying in woodlands, perhaps because their more typical, open-field habitats are later to sprout new growth.  By midsummer, they fly by the dozens around cultivated fields and roadsides. 

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington, Wilcox, Winston

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 100 - Franklin - 9/25/2016
  • 54 - Lawrence - 8/19/2010
  • 50 - Baldwin - 8/14/2017
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 2 9 11 32 14 27 51 10 9 6 41 19 5 16 16 15 13 19 82 58 135 82 101 106 104 173 181 113 188 209 241 79 91 61 26 31 12 19 10 11 2


Open areas during most of the year. Often found in and near agricultural areas.  In spring, also encountered in woodlands and inside forests.


Host and Nectar Plants

These host plants have been verified in Alabama: Coffeeweed/Sicklepod (Senna obtusifolia), Common Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata).


For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Including Partridge Peas in the landscape will feed several species of sulphur caterpillars, including Sleepy Orange.  Nectar sources that include asters, goldenrods, mistflowers, and other late season bloomers are important since Little Yellow populations peak in the fall.