Home / Whites and Sulphurs (Pieridae) / Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)

Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)

The Clouded Yellow butterfly, a mesmerizing species, is predominantly found across various regions of Europe and Africa. Renowned for its vibrant hues and dynamic presence, this butterfly captures the essence of wild, untamed nature, thriving in diverse habitats from sun-drenched meadows to coastal cliffs.

Clouded Yellow Butterfly

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Pieridae
  • Genus: Colias
  • Scientific Name: Colias croceus


This butterfly belongs to the Colias genus, which is celebrated for its striking coloration and patterns. The Clouded Yellow is not just a visual delight but also an ecological marvel, playing a crucial role in pollination. Its lifecycle—from a humble caterpillar to a majestic butterfly—showcases nature’s miraculous transformations. This guide aims to enrich your understanding of the Clouded Yellow butterfly, providing insights into its identification, lifecycle, and unique behaviors.

Description and Identification


In its early stages, the Clouded Yellow caterpillar boasts a yellowish-green body contrasted with a black head. As it matures, it adopts a darker green hue adorned with red and white spots along its lateral lines, signaling its readiness to transition into the pupal stage.


The pupa phase introduces a green casing, highlighted by yellow stripes along the sides, a camouflage strategy to deter predators while it undergoes metamorphosis into an adult butterfly.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: Present. Males and females of the species exhibit distinct coloration patterns that aid in their identification.

Color and Appearance: The adult butterfly’s wings, when spread, display a vivid orange-yellow or golden shade with a distinctive broad, black margin. A unique black spot centers the forewing, while the underside presents a greenish hue, lacking the black border. The hind side features a central white spot, with a nearby dark or white dot. In repose, with wings closed, the butterfly shows lemon-yellow wings dotted with black and centered with white. The females might also sport yellow spots on their black margins, a feature absent in males. A rare variation among females exhibits a pale cream coloration, often confused with similar species.

Female Clouded Yellow ButterflyMale Clouded Yellow ButterflyAverage Wingspan: Ranges between 46-54 mm (1.8-2.1 inches), allowing for swift, agile flight patterns characteristic of the species.

Flight Pattern: Known for its rapid and direct flight, the Clouded Yellow is a dynamic presence in its natural habitat, navigating with precision and speed.


The eggs start pale and undergo a color transformation, hatching into caterpillars within about ten days, marking the beginning of a new lifecycle.

Quick Facts

DistributionThis species enjoys a wide range, inhabiting southern Europe, North Africa, Turkey, the Middle East, and extending to Scandinavia, Siberia, and parts of India in Asia.
HabitatPreferring the countryside, the Clouded Yellow thrives in open areas, fields, and coastal cliffs, adapting to various environments.
Lifespan of AdultsApproximately 20 to 30 days
Host PlantsThe caterpillars feed on a variety of plants including Taraxacum, Origanum vulgare, Senecio jacobaea, Carduus spp, and Cirsium spp.
Adult DietAdults primarily feed on the nectar of knapweed, thistles, dandelion, marjoram, fleabane, vetches, and ragwort, playing a crucial role in the pollination process.

How to Identify Clouded Yellow Butterfly?

Identifying the Clouded Yellow butterfly can be an exhilarating experience for enthusiasts. Look for its striking orange-yellow wings with broad black margins when spread. The presence of a black spot on the forewing’s upper side is a key identifier. In females, this black margin may include yellow spots, absent in males. The underside of the wings reveals a softer, greenish hue, distinct from the vibrant top side. Observing these butterflies in their natural habitat, especially during their flight, showcases their unique beauty and distinguishing features. Remember, the Clouded Yellow’s rapid and direct flight is as captivating as its coloration, making it a standout species among European butterflies.

Did You Know?

  • The Clouded Yellow butterfly exhibits a fascinating migratory behavior, often traveling to the United Kingdom during the summer in a phenomenon known as the “clouded yellow years.”
  • This species has several subspecies, including Colias croceus f. helice and Colias croceus f. deserticola, showcasing the butterfly’s adaptability and variation across regions.
  • Another intriguing fact is that the Clouded Yellow can sometimes be found in unexpected locations, far from its usual habitats, highlighting its remarkable ability to migrate and colonize new areas.


The Clouded Yellow butterfly, with its luminous wings and agile flight, is more than just a pretty sight; it’s a symbol of the delicate balance in nature. Whether you’re a seasoned butterfly watcher or a casual nature lover, the Clouded Yellow offers a glimpse into the intricate tapestry of life that surrounds us, reminding us of the beauty and resilience of the natural world.

Clouded Yellow Pictures

Colias CroceusClouded Yellow Butterflies
Clouded Yellow

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Pieridae
  • Genus: Colias
  • Scientific Name: Colias croceus
Published by Avatar on June 24, 2019.
Last Updated: February 28, 2024. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team