Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:.Wingspan: 1¼ - 1¾ inches (3.2 - 4.4 cm). The upperside of the wings is dark brown with a median row of misaligned glassy white spots on the forewing and with about three squarish white spots aligned in the subapical area. The forewing fringe is checkered.  The upper hindwings are brown except for the whitish marginal fringe.  Males of the Northern Cloudywing differ from the other closely-related species (Southern Cloudywing and Confused Cloudywing) by having a costal fold that encloses scent scales and is located on the upperside of the forewing. The underside of the hindwing has a pair of dark brown bands crossing the wing. These bands are thinly margined with irregular dark brown lines. The outer wing margins are lightly frosted in gray. Body color is typically pinkish-brown.  

Egg: Females deposit their pale green eggs singly on the undersides of leaves of their host plants in the pea family.  

Caterpillar:.The caterpillar is pale green to light brown with a pale yellow dorsolateral stripe running along each side, and a faint brown middorsal stripe running the length of the body.  The body is covered with short hairs, many of which originate in tiny cream-colored  bumps. The head is dark brown and covered with short yellowish hairs. Caterpillars live in a leaf retreat formed by rolling leaves into a tube structure and tying it together with silken strands. Mature caterpillars leave the host plant and seek a site to hibernate in leaf litter. These mature caterpillars will hibernate through the winter and pupate during the following spring.

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is brown.

The Northern Cloudywing has a low and rapid, erratic flight and quickly darts along dirt roads or clearings, stopping periodically to nectar.  Its preferred habitats include roadsides, open woodlands, forest clearings, old fields, and utility right-of-ways.  Males perch near the ground or at the tops of tall grasses or small shrubs. They tend to establish a territory and use the same perch for several days. Males will quickly leave their perch in order to chase away rival males, or to court passing females.  Groups of males may be seen sipping minerals and moisture at wet spots along stream edges or dirt roads.


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, Barbour, Bibb, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Covington, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Perry, Randolph, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox

  • 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):

  • 30 - Cleburne - 8/2/2021
  • 18 - Cleburne - 5/1/2018
  • 15 - Cleburne - 7/24/2018
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
26 34 49 72 54 69 87 57 39 31 3 2 5 9 25 38 77 55 23 7 14 1


Its preferred habitats include roadsides, open woodlands, forest clearings, old fields, and utility right-of-ways. 

Host and Nectar Plants

Northern Cloudywings nectar from a variety of flowers, but Northern Leatherflower (Clematis viornaseems to be a favorite.

Elsewhere, the larvae reportedly eat leaves of various species of legumes (Family Fabaceae)  including lespedezas (Lespedeza spp.), Butterfly Pea (Clitoria mariana), wild bean (Strophostyles helvola), tick trefoils (Desmodium spp.), Wild Kidney Bean (Phaseolus polystachios), Ground Nut (Apios americana), clovers (Trifolium spp), and Hogpeanut (Amphicarpa bracteata).

In Alabama, this plant has been documented as a host:


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

Northern Cloudywing
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)
© Karen Chiasson
White Clover
Northern Cloudywing
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)
© Sara Bright
Tick Trefoil

Landscaping Ideas

Provide a variety of garden worthy, nectar-rich flowers to attract butterflies like the Northern Cloudywing. These include: Butterfly Milkweed and other milkweeds; Purple Coneflower and other coneflowers; black eyed susans; phloxes; mountain mints; Common Buttonbush; Joe Pye weeds; gayfeathers/blazing stars; Mistflower; ironweeds; asters; and goldenrods.