orange sulphur

(Colias eurytheme)

Conservation Status
orange sulphur
Photo by Tom Baker
  IUCN Red List

not listed

 
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNA - Not applicable

 
  Minnesota

not listed

 
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Orange sulphur is a medium-suzed butterfly. It is one of the most common butterflies in North America. It is very common in Minnesota.

Adults have a 1 to 2¾ wingspan.

It rarely lands with wings open. On the male the upperside of both wings are yellow with a wide, solid, black border at the outer margins. There is a black blush extending outward from the basal area near the body to the medial area, and a small to large bright orange area extending from the basal area toward the black border. The upperside is often mostly or completely orange inside the borders. In the spring and early summer of years with colder temperatures, the upperside is often mostly yellow with only a small blush of orange in the basal area. There is always at least some orange on the wing upperside. On the forewing there is a small black spot at the end of the forewing cell. On the hindwing there is a small, bright orange, median spot. The veins are yellow, including within the black border. On the female the black border is wider and has several yellow spots.

The underside of both wings is yellow or greenish-yellow with a pinkish-white fringe. There is often orange in the basal and median areas of the forewing, but it may be covered by the hindwing and difficult to see. On the forewing there is a small black spot with a white center at the end of the forewing cell. On the hindwing there is a small, white, median spot outlined in brown, with a similar, tiny spot just above it. Both wings usually show a row of small, faint, black or brown, submarginal spots. There is no black border on the wing undersides, but the upperside border shows through when the butterfly is backlit.

There is also a white-form female with greenish-white wings that is very common, at least in Minnesota.

The eyes are green.

The caterpillar is green and up to 1 long. As with all caterpillars, there is a row of small, oval to round openings (spiracles) on the on each side of the body. The spiracles appear on the first segment of the thorax and the first through eighth segments of the abdomen. There is a white stripe in this spiracular area extending from just behind the head to the anal plate. The stripe is edged in black or dark green at the bottom and may have a thin bar of pink or orange in the center. The entire body, including the head, is moderately covered with short, straight, white hairs (seta) that may not be visible without a hand lens.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Wingspan: 1 to 2¾

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
 

Clouded sulphur (Colias philodice) has no orange on the wings.

Pink-edged sulphur (Colias interior) has no orange on the wings. The median spot on the hindwing does not have a tiny similar spot above it. There is no row of submarginal spots on either wing.

 
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Meadows, fields, lawns, roadsides, and other open areas.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

Two or three overlapping broods per year: May to late October.

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

Caterpillars usually feed only at night.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

Males patrol in search of receptive females. Females lay pale eggs singly on the upper side of leaflets on host plants.

The last brood overwinters as pupae.

 
     
 

Larva Hosts

 
 

White clover (Trifolium repens) and sweet clover (Melilotus spp) are the preferred hosts. Other foods include Alfalfa (Medicago sativa ssp. sativa), bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus var. corniculatus), vetches (Vicia), and other plants in the pea family (Fabaceae).

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Flower nectar

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

7, 20, 21, 29, 30, 71.

 
  9/12/2021      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Very common in Minnesota

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  
 

Suborder

Glossata  
 

Infraorder

Neolepidoptera  
  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  
 

Superfamily

Papilionoidea (butterflies [excluding skippers])  
 

Family

Pieridae (whites, yellows and sulphurs)  
 

Subfamily

Coliadinae (sulphurs and yellows)  
 

Tribe

Coliadini  
 

Genus

Colias  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

alfalfa butterfly

alfalfa caterpillar (larva)

orange sulphur

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Seta

A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like structure on butterflies and moths used to sense touch. Plural: setae.

 

Spiracle

A small opening on the surface of an insect through which the insect breathes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

Share your photo of this insect.

 
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Dan W. Andree

 
 

I think this is a Orange Sulfur Butterfly...

and some kind of tiny metallic green fly

  orange sulphur  
 

K Helms

 
  There must have been 100’s of them on about a 1 mile section of the trail past Eagle Lake. Here’s a photo of 2 wing parts I picked up off the trail.   orange sulphur  
 

Tom Baker

 
    orange sulphur   orange sulphur  
           
    orange sulphur   orange sulphur  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
    orange sulphur   orange sulphur  
           
    orange sulphur      
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Orange Sulphur
DianesDigitals
  Orange Sulphur  
 
About

Copyright DianesDigitals

Colias eurytheme

 
Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulphur)
Allen Chartier
  Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulphur)  
Orange Sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme)
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
  Orange Sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme)  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

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Other Videos
 
  Orange Sulphur
JVMNatu
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 7, 2012

Colias eurytheme mating

 
  Orange Sulfur or Alfalfa Butterfly
laspilitas
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Oct 17, 2008

Orange Sulfur or Alfalfa Butterfly, Colias eurytheme, on Rabbit Brush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus at Las Pilitas Nursery

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this insect.

 
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Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Dan W. Andree
End of August 2021

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

I think this is a Orange Sulfur Butterfly and some kind of tiny metallic green fly

orange sulphur

 
  K Helms
8/4/2020

Location: Sakatah Bike Trail

There must have been 100’s of them on about a 1 mile section of the trail past Eagle Lake. Here’s a photo of 2 wing parts I picked up off the trail.

orange sulphur

 
           
 
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Binoculars


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