Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 0.75-1.25" (1.9-2.54 cm).  Upper surfaces are lemon yellow with black forewing tips and a black bar along the forewing edge.  Males have a scent patch within the dark hindwing bar that is orange/red. Females have orange-yellow hindwings with more extensive black markings.  Under surface hindwings are yellow with greenish markings.  Winter forms are more heavily pigmented and tend to look gray/green when wings are closed.  In Alabama, both seasonal color forms may be found in the fall. 

Egg: Yellow spindles are laid singly on host plant.

Caterpillar: Green with thin yellow stripes. Sometimes rosy-purple stripes are present.

Chrysalis: Small and green.  Head is rounded rather than pointed.

Dainty Sulphurs are our smallest yellow butterflies.  In spite of the fact that they are tiny, they are excellent colonizers and in good years, Dainty Sulphurs extend their range from Florida into Alabama during late summer. Although they somewhat resemble Barred Sulphurs, their elongated forewing shape and their host plant choices make them unique among the sulphurs.

Dainty Sulphurs are easily overlooked.  Males fly low in vegetation as they patrol for females, and females often sit motionless, deep within vegetation, except when nectaring or ovipositing.  

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: Baldwin, Bibb, Colbert, Dallas, Jefferson, Lawrence, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, 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):

  • 10 - Perry - 9/21/2012
  • 8 - Perry - 9/12/2010
  • 5 - Perry - 8/29/2010
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 3 1 5 3 9 11 1 8 7 2 3 1 1


Open, disturbed areas that include roadsides, vacant lots, farmlands, and utility easements.

Host and Nectar Plants

In other states, Dainty Sulphurs generally use members of the Aster family as their caterpillar hosts. Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) is commonly chosen in Florida.  

Only one host has currently been documented in Alabama: Green Carpetweed (Mollugo verticillata), a member of the Carpetweed family (Molluginaceae). It is a weedy annual that is native to tropical America. 

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 and host plant sources for many small butterflies, including Dainty Sulphurs.  Green Carpetweed, a confirmed Alabama host plant, is often a component of naturalized lawns.