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Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Clouded Sulphur

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Image Credit: Barry M., taken in Lowndes County, GA
Full-sized image of the Clouded-Sulphur-Butterfly Thumbnail image of the Clouded-Sulphur-Butterfly
Image Credit: Barry M., taken in Lowndes County, GA
Full-sized image #2 of the Clouded-Sulphur-Butterfly Thumbnail image #2 of the Clouded-Sulphur-Butterfly
Image Credit: Gerard M., taken in Hancock, Maine
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Image Credit: Clifford I. taken in the Arkansas River Valley, AR
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The pale yellow Clouded Sulphur Butterfly is a common summertime guest in backyards and parks, happily flitting about the flowers.

Updated: 10/11/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Sulphur (also spelled sulfur) is a yellow nonmetal that is often associated with a rotten egg smell. The butterfly takes after this element's color, not its odor. Female Clouded Sulphurs have colors that range from bright yellow to greenish-white. Males are typically a richer, buttery yellow. Both genders have a double white spot on the forewing, though in males it is more visually pronounced with its dark border. Their front pair of legs is the same length as the others, whereas other families of butterflies have very short front legs. These long legs allow it to readily walk. This butterfly species is very similar in appearance to Orange Sulphurs (also in the Colias genus) and may be mistaken for them in the field. Clouded Sulphurs do not meander. Instead, they fly direct routes to their destination, though it may look sloppy.

Caterpillars are chubby and green with a black stripe along the body. They especially enjoy feeding on clover, but they will also eat the leaves of alfalfa and other bean plants. The medium-sized Clouded Sulphur butterfly can be seen flying in meadows, near puddles, along roads, in parks, crop fields, gardens, and various muddy places. They are comfortable in urban, suburban and rural environs, making it likely most people will see them sometimes during the spring, summer and fall months.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Patterned insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Pieridae
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          Genus: Colias
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            Species: philodice

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Colias philodice
Other Name(s): Common Sulphur
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 35mm to 51mm (1.37" to 2.00")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: yellow; white; brown; red; black; pink; greenish
Descriptors: spot; flying; club

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 35mm (1.4in) and 51mm (2.0in)
Lo: 35mm
Md: 43mm
Hi: 51mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Clouded Sulphur may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Clouded Sulphur. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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