orange sulphur

(Colias eurytheme)

Conservation Status
orange sulphur
Photo by Tom Baker
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNA - Not applicable


not listed


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.




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.


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




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




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 Map



7, 21, 24, 27, 29, 30, 71, 75, 82.




Very common in Minnesota



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  


Papilionoidea (butterflies)  


Pieridae (whites, yellows and sulphurs)  


Coliadinae (yellows and sulphurs)  




Colias (clouded yellows)  





Common Names


alfalfa butterfly

alfalfa caterpillar (larva)

orange sulphur









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



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























Visitor Photos

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Greg Watson

    orange sulphur      

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  
    orange sulphur   orange sulphur  
    orange sulphur      



Orange Sulphur
  Orange Sulphur  

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)  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Orange Sulphur

Published on Jun 7, 2012

Colias eurytheme mating

  Orange Sulfur or Alfalfa Butterfly

Uploaded on Oct 17, 2008

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




Visitor Sightings

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Be sure to include a location.
  Greg Watson

Location: Apple Blossom Overlook Park

orange sulphur  
  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

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


Agassiz Dunes SNA (MN DNR)

Antelope Valley SNA

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Banning State Park

Belgium Prairie

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Big Stone Lake State Park

Blaine Preserve SNA

Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Blazing Star Prairie Addition Preserve, South Unit

Blue Devil Valley SNA

Blue Mounds State Park

Boot Lake SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Butternut Valley Prairie SNA

Camden State Park

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Highlands WMA, South Unit

Cedar Mountain SNA

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chippewa Prairie

Clinton Prairie SNA

Compass Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Dodge Nature Center

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Fort Ridgely State Park

Foxhome Prairie

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Hastings SNA

Helen Allison Savanna SNA

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Hythecker Prairie SNA

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Itasca State Park

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Kasota Prairie SNA

Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Kellogg Weaver Unit

Kettledrummer Prairie

Kilen Woods State Park

Lake Alexander Woods SNA, South Unit

Lake Johanna Esker Preserve

Lake Maria State Park

Langhei Prairie SNA

Leif Mountain

Maplewood State Park

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

Miller Prairie, West Unit

Minneopa State Park

Minnesota Valley NWR, Louisville Swamp Unit

Morton Outcrops SNA

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, South Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Osmundson Prairie SNA

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Crookston Prairie Unit

Plover Prairie, East Unit

Prairie Bush Clover SNA

Prairie Coteau SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Rice Lake State Park

Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott SNA

River Terrace Prairie SNA

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Rockville County Park

St. Croix Savanna SNA

Sand Prairie Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Schaefer Prairie

Sedan Brook SNA

Sheepberry Fen

Sibley State Park

Split Rock Creek State Park

Swedes Forest SNA

Town Hall Prairie

Tribute WMA

Twin Lakes SNA

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Wild Indigo SNA

William O’Brien State Park

Woodbury WMA

Yellow Bank Hills SNA

Zumbro Falls Woods SNA





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