Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 3/8 to 2 inches (3.5-5.1 cm).  Both sexes have bright lemon-yellow wings with black borders on the upper surface.  Males have a solid black border while females have a wider border that is peppered with a row of yellow spots.  There is a black spot on the upper center of the forewing of both sexes.  The hindwing’s underside is yellow or greenish yellow with a double red-rimmed silver spot in the center.  Some females are white (alba) instead of yellow.  In the field, these females are virtually impossible to distinguish from white-form Orange Sulphur females.

ID Tip:  Clear lemon yellow with no hint of gold or orange.  Upper surfaces are often difficult to see because these butterflies almost never sit with open wings.  However, it is important to verify, even though the butterfly may be in flight, that no orange occurs on dorsal surfaces.

Egg: Spindle-shaped.  White when laid; turns orange/red.

Caterpillar: Caterpillars are grass green with a multicolored stripe along the lower edges of the body.  The upper stripe is white; followed by red/pink; white; and finally black.  Orange Sulphur caterpillars are so similar that they cannot be reliably separated in the field.

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is green with yellow and black dashes. The overwintering stage.

Originally a northern species, Clouded Sulphurs moved south in the early 1900’s as western-based Orange Sulphurs moved east.  In the resulting mix, Cloudeds have taken a back seat to Orange Sulphurs.  Clouded Sulphurs occur in Alabama but are far less common than Orange Sulphurs.  They are not expected to occur in the Coastal Region.

The two species are closely related: the life stages look virtually identical and behavior is indistinguishable.  However, female sulphurs are able to choose appropriate mates because they are able to detect ultraviolet patterns that differ in the two species.  Orange Sulphur upper wing surfaces reflect UV light, while Clouded Sulphur wings absorb it.  Even so, hybrids reportedly occur.

Clouded and Orange Sulphurs often fly in the same habitats.  When adding "Clouded Sulphur" to a trip list, one must always ask the question, “What field marks indicate that this is NOT an Orange Sulphur?”

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 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 albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Calhoun, Chilton, Cleburne, Colbert, DeKalb, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Marshall, Shelby, Tuscaloosa

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 1 3 2 5 2 1 9 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

Habitat

Fields, roadsides, pastures and other sunny areas. Open, weedy sites. Clouded Sulphurs may favor natural areas more than Orange Sulphurs do.

Host and Nectar Plants

Members of the Pea family (Fabaceae), espcially clovers (Melilotus and Trifolium spp.) and vetches (Vicia spp.) are reported.

No host has yet been verified in Alabama.

Landscaping Ideas

Including a variety of flowers such as daisy feabanes (Erigeron spp.), Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.), Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), asters (Symphyotrichum spp.), goldenrods (Solidago spp.), ironweeds (Vernonia spp.), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and Mistflower/Wild Ageratum (Conoclinium coelestinum) in your landscape will provide nectar for butterflies like Clouded Sulphurs throughout the growing season.