Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 2 to 2¾ inches (5.4 - 7.0 cm). Upper surface of males is lemon yellow with no markings. Female may be yellow or white; outer edges of both wings have irregular, patchy black borders; the upper forewing has a dark spot. Lower surface of hindwing of both sexes has 2 pink-edged silver spots.

ID Tip: Large yellow wings with no solid black wing edges

Egg: Spindle-shaped eggs first white, then quickly turn orange.  They are laid singly on host leaves or flower buds.

Caterpillar: Color is variable: may be green with a bright yellow stripe; green with a bright yellow stripe and blue patches on the sides; yellow with bright yellow line on sides;  yellow with bright yellow line on sides and black rings. All have varying degrees of short hairs that come from tiny black tubercles.

Chrysalis: Green, yellow or rosy in color. Greatly compressed from side to side.  Resembles a leaf. 

The Cloudless Sulphur is one of the most common and conspicuous butterfly species in Alabama.  It flies from border to border throughout the spring and summer months. Autumn populations rise to astonishing numbers as northern migrants join local populations.  During fall, southbound individuals are common sights along interstate highways and other roads, covering as many as twelve miles per day.  

Cloudless Sulphurs have an exceptionally long proboscis (mouthpart) which allows them to access nectar from the same long-tubed plants that feed hummingbirds. 

 

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 albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, 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, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, 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):

  • 75 - Franklin - 9/25/2016
  • 75 - Cleburne - 9/9/2020
  • 71 - Cleburne - 9/12/2020
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
17 1 8 14 25 18 39 78 34 145 213 218 121 118 147 137 131 84 56 97 98 55 29 113 54 147 127 273 306 439 495 792 769 778 659 705 329 411 271 149 189 158 113 77 66 42 34 79

Habitat

Open areas including agricultural lands, parks, roadsides, vacant fields, and gardens.

Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
County
© Sara Bright
Drifts of Common Partridge Pea make for good Cloudless Sulphur habitat.

Host and Nectar Plants

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

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
County
© Sara Bright
Common Partridge Pea
Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
County
© Sara Bright
Common Partridge Pea
Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
County
© Sara Bright
Common Partridge Pea
Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
County
© Paul Oak
Sicklepod
Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
County
© Ivory Russell
Common Sensitive Plant

Landscaping Ideas

Plant Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) to support many sulphurs, including Cloudless Sulphurs. 

Since Cloudless Sulphurs have an exceptionally long proboscis (mouthpart) they can access nectar from the same long-tubed plants that feed hummingbirds.  Native azaleas (Rhododendron spp.), Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea) are among the nectar plants that will add beauty to your landscape as well as feed Cloudless Sulphur butterflies and Ruby Throated Hummingbirds.

Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Cardinal Flower provides late summer nectar for Cloudless Sulphurs as well as hummingbirds.
Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Partridge Pea forms a unique and lovely border around Dr. Tom and Jane Heineke's pool in Hudsonville, Mississippi.
Cloudless Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Trumpet Honeysuckle's spring flowers are a nectar source for early-flying Cloudless Sulphurs.