Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1¼ - 1½ inches (3.2 - 4.1 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Yellow; black wingtips and a black bar along lower margin of forewings. In females, bar faint or almost absent.  UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Hindwing usually has black band around outside margin.  Females typically lighter than males; sometimes almost white. 

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

Egg: Pale, spindle shaped.  Deposited singly on host plant.

Caterpillar: Green with narrow, white side stripes and very short hairs. Head green.

Chrysalis: Green with faint dark markings; faint white and black line near head and thorax. Sometimes highly patterned. Short point on head. Often formed on host plant.

Barred Yellows exhibit dramatic seasonal variation in color and lifestyle.  Summer/wet season butterflies are generally paler and smaller with light gray or white ventral hindwings.  Winter/dry season individuals display tan or brick-red scaling on their hindwings.  Intermediate types also occur. Barred Yellows exhibit so many different markings and color forms that respected lepidopterist/author Rick Cech suggests “Variable Yellow” as a more appropriate name. Summer form butterflies are reproductively active and have a short life span. Winter forms live through late fall and winter in reproductive diapause.  

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.

By late summer, Barred Yellows range throughout the Southeast. They are not year-round residents of Alabama and are seldom common.  These sulphurs are not adapted to withstand freezing temperatures, so they recolonize from Florida each year. Not expected in spring, look for a rise in population as the year progresses.

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, Bibb, Bullock, Chambers, Chilton, Choctaw, Clay, Cleburne, Covington, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lee, Macon, Mobile, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tuscaloosa, 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):

  • 40 - Chilton - 7/24/2020
  • 36 - Baldwin - 10/2/2023
  • 30 - Bibb - 6/26/2019
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
2 1 3 1 1 8 21 8 4 30 4 11 32 19 22 74 17 8 15 97 21 25 21 156 19 90 72 92 40 40 31 82 80 29 17 8 34 6 10 8 2 2 1

Habitat

Open areas that include sparse woods, roadsides, vacant lots, coastal sand dunes, waste areas, dry coastal-plain pine woodlands, and sometimes gardens.

Barred Yellow
Barred Yellow (Eurema daira)
County
© Sara Bright
Side Beak Pencil Flower

Host and Nectar Plants

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

The following has been documented in Alabama:

 

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

Barred Yellow
Barred Yellow (Eurema daira)
County
© Sara Bright
Side Beak Pencil Flower

Landscaping Ideas

Natural lawns that contain small flowering plants like clover, frogfruit, and violets provide nectar sources for many small butterflies including Barred Yellows. Side Beak Pencil Flower, a typical host plant, will grow in a natural lawn. The attractive yellow flowers bloom from early summer through fall. It also makes a good ground cover, growing about one foot tall with the same spread. 

Barred Yellow
Barred Yellow (Eurema daira)
County
© Sara Bright
Side Beak Pencil flower used as a groundcover.