Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
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.
- Family: Pieridae
- Genus: Colias
- Common names: Alfalfa Butterfly
- Scientific Name: Colias eurytheme
Description and Identification
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.
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.
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.
Average wingspan: 2.5-3.3 inches
Flight pattern: Fast and haphazard
Laid singly, these are initially white, that turns red after a few days
|Distribution||Throughout the continent of North America, starting from south of Canada to Mexico (except central and southeastern US)|
|Habitat||All open areas, especially by the roadsides and agricultural areas|
|Lifespan of adults||2-4 weeks (average)|
|Host plants||Plants from the pea family (Fabiacae), with the main food being alfalfa (Medicago sativa)|
|Adult diet||Flower 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.