Home / Whites and Sulphurs (Pieridae) / Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

Orange Sulphur wisconsinbutterflies.org

The Orange Sulphur Butterfly is a very common North American butterfly with a bright appearance and a relatively small size, found across the open lands. Their abundance, however, varies with season since they are mostly found between early spring and late fall.

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Pieridae
  • Genus: Colias
  • Common names: Alfalfa Butterfly
  • Scientific Name: Colias eurytheme

Description and Identification


Orange Sulphur Caterpillar a4.pbase.com

The larva feeds on the young leaves of their host plants during the night. It has a green body with a rugged or uneven surface and two straight yellow to bright white lines running from head to base at both the sides with fine clusters of dots running parallel in cyan and black. The caterpillars of the species are considered pests by the alfalfa growers because of their affinity towards these plants.


Orange Sulphur Chrysalis a4.pbase.com

The orange sulphur chrysalis is light green in color (helping them camouflage in between dead leaves), and has a yellow lateral line with brown markings all over.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: Clearly present

Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, they show a distinct bright yellow coloration with various amounts of scaling in light orange. Both the dorsal and the ventral wings have black borders at the margins. The color orange is evidently seen when they are in flight. When the wings are closed, the ventral side shows a yellowish-orange color along with an indistinct row of tiny black spots by the margins, as also, a double spot at the center of the wings. The males have a solid black border around the wings, while the females have yellow spots in its place.

Colias eurytheme learnaboutbutterflies.com

Orange Sulphur Butterflies cdn.butterflyatlas.org

Average wingspan: 2.5-3.3 inches

Flight pattern: Fast and haphazard


Orange Sulphur Eggs bugguide.net

Laid singly, these are initially white, that turns red after a few days

Quick Facts

DistributionThroughout the continent of North America, starting from south of Canada to Mexico (except central and southeastern US)
HabitatAll open areas, especially by the roadsides and agricultural areas
Lifespan of adults2-4 weeks (average)
Host plantsPlants from the pea family (Fabiacae), with the main food being alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Adult dietFlower nectar

Did You Know?

  • Some female of the species are white instead of yellow.
  • The orange sulphur gets its name ‘Alfalfa Butterfly’ (and the ‘Alfalfa Caterpillar’) for its specific fondness for the alfalfa plant.

Orange Sulphur Butterfly Host Plant 3.bp.blogspot.com

Orange Sulphur Butterfly Images rodplanck.com

Orange Sulphur Butterfly bugguide.net

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Pieridae
  • Genus: Colias
  • Common names: Alfalfa Butterfly
  • Scientific Name: Colias eurytheme
Published by Poppy Glendening on October 23, 2018.
Last Updated: October 15, 2023. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team