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Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

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

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Image Credit: Jerry Gildemeister
Full-sized image of the Orange-Sulphur-Butterfly Thumbnail image of the Orange-Sulphur-Butterfly
Image Credit: Terry R. from Norway, ME
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Image Credit: Clifford I. taken in the Arkansas River Valley, AR
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Image Credit: Clifford I. taken in the Arkansas River Valley, AR
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When spotted resting, the many similarities the Orange Sulphur shares with its close relatives sometimes clouds a confident identification.

Updated: 08/23/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Multiple forms and similar coloring often lead to identification challenges for the Orange Sulphur. It is so similar in appearance to the Clouded Sulphur, it is extremely difficult to tell them apart without closer inspection. Despite the ability to tell their own kind apart from others, the two species have sometimes interbred, so they cannot always be identified as either/or. Orange Sulphur males are a buttery yellow. The top side of the wings has solid black borders. Each forewing has a black dot near the outer edges. A blush of orange is common in the center of the wings near the abdomen. The male's abdomen is yellow, but dusted with black along the 'spine'. Females are white, though early forms are yellow with a hint of orange. They also have black borders on the tops of their wings, but have yellow patches inside these borders. Both sexes are usually seen visiting flowers and are on the wing from spring to autumn.

Caterpillars feed on low-growing ground cover like alfalfa, clover, vetch, and other legumes. These larvae have smooth, green bodies. A thin, white line runs along each side of the caterpillar near the feet. This species remains in the larval or pupal stage overwinter and emerges as a winged adult in the spring. Three broods can be produced each year. Look for white or orange spindle-shaped eggs on the tops of host plant leaves.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Striped or banded 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: eurytheme

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Colias eurytheme
Other Name(s): Alfalfa Butterfly
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 40mm to 65mm (1.57" to 2.55")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: orange; yellow; white; brown
Descriptors: spot; dot; flying; arc; line

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 40mm (1.6in) and 65mm (2.6in)
Lo: 40mm
Md: 52.5mm
Hi: 65mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Orange 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 Orange Sulphur. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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