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Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly (Phoebis sennae)


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



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Cloudless Sulphurs migrate north in warmer months, stretching their typical range across the U.S. so everyone can see them in the summer.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Cloudless Sulphurs are prolific in the southern U.S. and Mexico where they can produce 3 or 4 broods a year. They migrate to the north every year where the cold weather limits them to 1 or 2 broods before returning south. This species closely resembles the Clouded Sulphur in both name and appearance. Both have similar yellow colors, with only slight variations in spot placement and forewing shape. These minute features help distinguish them from each other, if they are around long enough to study. Look for Cloudless Sulphurs in a variety of areas with flowers or mud puddles. They are versatile and wander through backyards, construction sites, woodland edges, parks, and fields in addition to tropical forests and beaches. They are strong, fast fliers, and seem to rarely stop long enough to take a proper rest.

The larva of this species is completely yellow at first. It develops 10 black-brown bands which 'segment' it from head to rear. These black bands part to allow a thin green line in-between them. Black dots cover the yellow body and each black & green band ends in a black dot above the legs on each side of the body. The black/green bands fade away as the caterpillar prepares to pupate. The pupa resembles a yellow-green leaf, allowing it to blend into foliage. It prefers to feed on the leaves of senna, a type of flowering legume.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Fast insect icon
Flying insect icon
Harmless insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Pieridae
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          Genus: Phoebis
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            Species: sennae
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Phoebis sennae
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 55mm to 70mm (2.16" to 2.75")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: yellow, green, black
Descriptors: flying, harmless, fast,
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 55mm (2.2in) and 70mm (2.8in)
Lo: 55mm
Md: 62.5mm
Hi: 70mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
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Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
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Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly 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 Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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