Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 1/4 to 1 5/8 inches (3.2-4.1 cm). A small yellow butterfly with black wingtips and a black bar along the lower margin of the forewings.  In females, this bar is faint or almost absent.  The upperside of the hindwing usually has a black band around the outside margin.  Females are typically lighter than males and are sometimes almost white.  This species also exhibits considerable seasonal variation.  Summer/wet season butterflies are generally paler and smaller.  Winter/dry season individuals display brick-red scaling on their wings. Barred Yellows exhibit so many different markings and color forms that respected lepidopterist/author Rick Cech suggests “Variable Sulphur” as a more appropriate name.

ID Tip: Black bar on lower edge of dorsal (upper surface) forewing. Bottom of hindwing is angled rather than rounded.

Egg: Pale, spindle-shaped eggs are deposited singly on host plant.

Caterpillar: Caterpillars are green with narrow, white side stripes and very short hairs.

Chrysalis: Chrysalides are green with faint dark markings and a faint white and black line near the head and thorax. They may sometimes be highly patterned.  Chrysalides appear somewhat flattened and have a short point on the head. Often formed on the host plant.

Barred Sulphurs are not year-round residents of Alabama and are seldom common. They are not adapted to withstand freezing temperatures and recolonize from Florida each year. Not expected in spring, look for a rise in population as the year progresses.

Barred Sulphur males are typically seen actively patrolling for females.  Courtship is an amazing sight!  An amorous male sidles up to a potential female partner and unhinges a forewing and then proceeds to wave it in her face while simultaneously releasing sex-inducing pheromones.  If she is previously unmated and sufficiently impressed, mating occurs.  Freshly emerged males engage in puddling behavior.

 

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: Baldwin, Bibb, Bullock, Chambers , Covington, Geneva, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Macon, Perry, Pike, Shelby, Wilcox

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
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 1 1 1 1 5 5 2 2 1 6 1 1 3 3 22 9 9 11 6 9 8 9 2 1 1

Habitat

In south Alabama, Barred Yellows may be found in coastal sand dunes and dry coastal-plain pine woodlands.  In other parts of the state, they are usually found in disturbed, open areas that include roadsides, vacant lots, and sometimes gardens.

Host and Nectar Plants

Members of the Pea family (Fabaceae), especially pencil-flowers (Stylosanthes spp.)  and joint-vetches (Aeschynomene spp.) are typically reported.

This host plant has been verified in Alabama: Side Beak Pencil Flower (Stylosanthes biflora).

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

Landscaping Ideas

Natural lawns that contain small flowering plants like clover, frogfruit, and violets provide nectar sources for many small butterflies including Barred Yellows. Pencil Flower, a typical host plant, will also grow in a natural lawn.