Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¼ - 2 inches (3.5 - 5.1 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Bright lemon-yellow. Black spot on center forewing. Hindwing has central orange spot. Males have solid black borders; females have wider borders peppered with yellow spots. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Lemon yellow or greenish yellow with double, red-rimmed silver spot in center.  Some females are white (alba).  In the field, these females are 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: Grass green with a multicolored stripe along lower edge. Upper stripe is white; followed by red/pink; white; black. Orange Sulphur caterpillars are so similar that they cannot be reliably separated in the field.

Chrysalis: 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 took a back seat to Orange Sulphurs.  Clouded Sulphurs fly 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: their life stages look identical, and behavior is indistinguishable.  However, female sulphurs can 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, creating a potential identification nightmare. Both species produce white form ('alba') females, and these cannot be distinguished in the field. Clouded Sulphurs are lemon or greenish yellow on ventral and dorsal wings. They do not show orange or egg-yolk yellow above.  Orange Sulphurs have some orange or gold on their upper surface, although there is less in spring-flying individuals. Unfortunately, neither species sits with open wings, so the all-important field mark must be glimpsed in flight. In Alabama, a definitive identification of Clouded Sulphur cannot be made without a look at the dorsal wings.

*The Alabama Butterfly Atlas requires photographic documentation of Clouded Sulphur sightings. Keep in mind that the dorsal (top side) surface must show. Even an out-of-focus in-flight picture will suffice!

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: Calhoun, Chilton, Choctaw, Cleburne, Colbert, DeKalb, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Tuscaloosa

  • 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):

  • 24 - Madison - 7/11/2018
  • 13 - Madison - 5/25/2019
  • 13 - Madison - 8/13/2019
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 4 8 6 1 7 2 1 13 3 18 2 1 2 4 24 6 3 1 16 1 3 9 2 1 2


Fields, roadsides, alfalfa and/or clover fields, farmlands, pastures. Seldom found in gardens.

Host and Nectar Plants

Reports from nearby states list members of the Pea family (Fabaceae), especially Alflalfa (Medicago sativa), clovers (Melilotus and Trifolium spp.) and vetches (Vicia spp.).

No host has been verified in Alabama.

Landscaping Ideas