Overview

Brief Summary

North American Ecology (US and Canada)

Resident throughout North America (Scott 1986). Habitats are OPEN AREAS AT ALL ALTITUDES; COMMON IN ALFALFA FIELDS. Host plants are usually herbaceous and include many species, but mostly in one family, Leguminosae. Eggs are laid on the host plant singly. Individuals overwinter as 3rd or 4th instar larvae. There is a variable number of flights based on latitude (Scott 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Comprehensive Description

General Description

This is our most common sulphur. The submarginal spots along the fore- and hindwing underside and lack of orange on the forewing upperside will generally distinguish this species. The underside discal spot is double-ringed, giving it a 'halo' effect. The spring generation tends to be smaller and darker. The subspecies status of our populations is unclear; they have been variously assigned to the nominate form (Layberry et al. 1998) or eriphyle (Guppy & Shepard 2001). It may be best not to assign a subspecies (Bird et al. 1995) until further study sheds light on this situation.
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Distribution

As currently defined, this species is distributed over much of North America, ranging from Alaska south to Florida and northern Mexico. There is also an isolated population in the highlands of Guatemala (Opler 1999).
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Most of subarctic North America, with the exception of Florida and the Pacific coast. Also present in Guatemalan mountains.

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Geographic Range

Clouded sulphurs are widespread across North America in the Nearctic region, occurring from the Arctic south to Guatamala. The subspecies Colias philodice vitabunda is found only in northern British Columbia to the Alaskan tundra.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Opler, P., G. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies East of the Great Plains. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
  • Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Adults are yellow, with submarginal dots on the undersides of the hindwings. There is one silver spot in the center of the hindwing with two red rings around it, and often there is a satellite spot. Females have a narrow black forewing border with light spots. The subspecies C. philodice vitabunda has mostly white females. The average wing measurement of female clouded sulphurs is 2.6 cm, and ranges from 2.2 cm - 3.1 cm; males range from 2.2 cm - 3.2 cm with an average of 2.4 cm. Clouded Sulphurs may hybridize with orange sulphurs (Colias eurydice).

Clouded sulphur eggs are cream colored when first deposited, then turn crimson in a day or two. The larvae are green, sometimes with pale yellow sides, with raised points and a faint green mid-dorsal line. There is a white lateral band on the larval body.

The pupa is green with yellowish white and black mottling and a yellow band.

Range wingspan: 2.2 to 3.2 cm.

Average wingspan: 2.5 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently

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Ecology

Habitat

Found in open areas throughout the province, from prairie grasslands to alpine meadows.
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Comments: A great variety of open habitats, almost all unnatural eastward as are many in the west. Openings in pine barrens and oak savannas are among the few natural habitats eastward.

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Clouded sulphurs are best adapted to open areas such as moist meadows, lawns, and alfalfa and clover fields.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Many species of legumes are larval hosts, including native and cultivated species. In southern Alberta, larvae feed on clover (Trifolium sp.) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Adults visit legume flowers and males will often congregate to mud-puddle.
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Food Habits

The larval foodplants for clouded sulphurs are numerous, and most are members of the legume family. Species include milk vetch (Astralagus), clovers (Trifolium), wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), wild pea (Lathyrus leucanthus), trefoil (Lotus), lupine (Lupinus perinnis), alfalfa (Medicago), white sweet clover (Melilotus alba), and vetch (Vicia).

Nectar plants are varied and include alfalfa (Medicago sativa), clovers (Trifolium), milkweed (Asclepias), self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), and teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris).

Plant Foods: leaves; nectar

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Nectarivore )

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Associations

Flowering Plants Visited by Colias philodice in Illinois

Colias philodice Godart: Pieridae, Lepidoptera
(observations are from Robertson, Graenicher, Betz et al., Hilty, Fothergill & Vaughn; this butterfly is the Clouded Sulfur; because Robertson and Graenicher did not distinguish Colias philodice from Colias eurytheme, some of their observations undoubtedly apply to the latter species; the common name of this latter butterfly is the Orange Sulfur)

Alismataceae: Sagittaria latifolia [pist sn] (Rb); Apiaceae: Cicuta maculata sn (Rb), Eryngium yuccifolium sn (Rb), Osmorhiza longistylis sn (Rb), Zizia aurea sn (Rb); Asclepiadaceae: Asclepias incarnata [plpr sn] [plup sn] (Rb, Btz), Asclepias purpurascens [plab sn] (Rb), Asclepias sullivanti [plpr sn] (Rb), Asclepias syriaca [plab] (Rb), Asclepias tuberosa [plpr sn] (Rb), Asclepias verticillata [plab] (Rb); Asteraceae: Antennaria plantaginifolia [stam sn] [pist sn] (Rb), Anthemis cotula sn (Gr), Arctium lappa sn (Gr), Arctium minus sn (Rb), Aster furcatus sn (Gr), Aster laevis sn (Gr), Aster lanceolatus sn (Rb), Aster novae-angliae (Rb, Gr, H), Aster pilosus sn fq (Rb), Aster prenanthoides sn (Gr), Aster puniceus sn (Gr), Aster salicifolius sn fq (Rb), Bidens aristosa sn (Rb), Bidens cernua sn fq (Rb), Boltonia asterioides sn (Rb), Cirsium hillii sn (Rb), Cirsium vulgare sn (Rb), Conoclinium coelestinum sn fq (Rb), Coreopsis palmata sn (Rb), Echinacea pallida sn (Rb), Echinacea purpurea sn (Rb), Eupatoriadelphus purpureus sn (Rb, Gr), Eupatorium perfoliatum sn (Rb), Eupatorium serotinum sn (Rb), Euthamia graminifolia sn (Rb, Gr), Helenium autumnale sn (Rb), Helianthus divaricatus sn (Rb), Helianthus giganteus sn (Gr), Helianthus grosseserratus sn (Rb), Helianthus mollis sn (Rb), Helianthus strumosus sn (Rb, Gr), Helianthus tuberosus sn (Rb), Heliopsis helianthoides sn (Gr), Krigia biflora sn (Rb), Liatris aspera sn (Rb), Liatris pycnostachya sn fq (Rb), Liatris spicata sn (Gr), Ratibida pinnata sn (Gr), Rudbeckia hirta sn (Rb), Rudbeckia subtomentosa sn (Rb), Rudbeckia triloba sn (Rb), Silphium laciniatum sn fq (Rb), Silphium perfoliatum sn (Rb), Solidago canadensis sn (Rb), Solidago nemoralis sn (Rb), Tanacetum vulgare sn (Gr), Vernonia fasiculata sn (Rb); Boraginaceae: Lithospermum canescens sn fq (Rb); Brassicaceae: Cardamine bulbosa sn (Rb); Caprifoliaceae: Symphoricarpos occidentalis sn (Gr); Caryophyllaceae: Cerastium nutans sn (Rb); Fabaceae: Astragalus crassicarpus trichocalyx sn np (Rb), Dalea purpurea sn (Rb), Lespedeza capitata sn np (Rb), Lespedeza virginica sn np (Rb), Trifolium pratense sn (Rb, FV), Trifolium repens sn (Rb); Geraniaceae: Geranium maculatum sn (Rb); Lamiaceae: Blephilia ciliata sn (Rb), Blephilia hirsuta sn fq (Rb), Glechoma hederacea sn fq np (Rb), Lycopus americanus sn (Rb), Monarda fistulosa sn (Rb), Nepeta cataria sn (Rb), Prunella vulgaris sn (Rb), Pycnanthemum tenuifolium sn (Rb), Teucrium canadense sn (Rb); Liliaceae: Camassia scilloides sn fq (Rb), Erythronium albidum sn (Rb), Nothoscordum bivalve sn (Rb); Lythraceae: Lythrum alatum sn (Rb); Malvaceae: Hibiscus trionum sn (Rb), Sida spinosa sn (Rb); Oxalidaceae: Oxalis violacea sn (Rb); Polemoniaceae: Phlox divaricata laphamii sn (Rb), Phlox glaberrima sn (Rb), Phlox pilosa sn fq (Rb), Polemonium reptans sn fq (Rb); Polygonaceae: Persicaria pensylvanica sn (Rb); Pontederiaceae: Pontederia cordata sn (Rb); Portulacaceae: Claytonia virginica sn (Rb); Ranunculaceae: Delphinium tricorne sn np (Rb), Ranunculus fascicularis sn (Rb); Rosaceae: Fragaria virginiana sn (Rb), Rubus allegheniensis sn (Rb), Rubus flagellaris sn (Rb); Rubiaceae: Cephalanthus occidentalis sn (Rb); Salicaceae: Salix nigra [stam sn] (Rb); Scrophulariaceae: Agalinis tenuifolia sn np (Rb), Collinsia verna sn np (Rb), Linaria vulgaris sn np (Rb), Lindernia dubia sn (Rb), Penstemon digitalis sn np (Rb), Physostegia virginiana sn np (Rb); Verbenaceae: Phyla lanceolata sn (Rb), Verbena hastata sn (Rb), Verbena stricta sn (Rb); Violaceae: Viola cucullata sn (Rb), Viola pedata sn (Rb), Viola pubescens sn (Rb), Viola sagittata sn (Rb), Viola striata sn np (Rb)

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Ecosystem Roles

Clouded sulphurs function as prey for a variety of species, and also serve as minor pollinators.

Ecosystem Impact: pollinates

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Predation

Predators of all life stages of butterflies include a variety of insect parasatoids. These wasps or flies will consume the body fluids first, and then eat the internal organs, ultimately killing the butterfly. Those wasps that lay eggs inside the host body include species in many different groups: Ichneumonidae, Braconidae, Pteromalidae, Chalcidoidea, Encyrtidae, Eulophidae, Scelionidae, Trichogrammatidae, and others. Trichogrammatids live inside the eggs, and are smaller than a pinhead. Certain flies (Tachinidae, some Sarcophagidae, etc.) produce large eggs and glue them onto the outside of the host larva, where the hatching fly larvae then burrow into the butterfly larvae. Other flies will lays many small eggs directly on the larval hostplants, and these are ingested by the caterpillars as they feed.

Most predators of butterflies are other insects. Praying mantis, lacewings, ladybird beetles, assasin bugs, carabid beetles, spiders, ants, and wasps (Vespidae, Pompilidae, and others) prey upon the larvae. Adult butterflies are eaten by robber flies, ambush bugs, spiders, dragonflies, ants, wasps (Vespidae and Sphecidae), and tiger beetles. The sundew plant is known to catch some butterflies.

There are also many vertebrate predators including lizards, frogs, toads, birds, mice, and other rodents.

Known Predators:

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Clouded sulphurs use visual cues and pheremones to communicate with each other.

Communication Channels: visual ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

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Adults feed mainly from nectar and mud. Males patrol for females (Scott, 1986).
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press.
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Cyclicity

There are usually two broods annually (likely only one in the far north), peaking in May and July.
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Life Cycle

The eggs are elongate with tapered ends and longitudinal ribs, and are red in colour several days after being laid (Guppy & Shepard 2001). Mature larvae are dark green with a dense covering of short, fine hairs, and have a dark dorsal and white-and-pink lateral line (Guppy & Shepard 2001). Pupae are green with three red dashes on the abdomen (Guppy & Shepard 2001). In favourable years (with adequate moisture and warm spring weather), there may be three broods in southern Alberta, and occasionally at least as far north as Edmonton. Individuals of the third brood, flying in late September to early October, are smaller and darker than the summer (second) brood, and resemble the spring brood. Northern (and possibly mountain) populations likely only have one annual brood. Single-brooded populations in the Peace River region of BC (subspecies vitabunda) may be a species distinct from philodice (Guppy & Shepard 2001). This taxon should also occur throughout the Peace River region of Alberta.
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Development

The last larvae of the year are reported to overwinter in the third stage (sometimes fourth). Other reports state that the clouded sulphurs overwinter as crysalis.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

In Colorado, clouded sulphurs lived an average of 2-3 days, with the longest surviving 2 weeks. In Colorado, females lived 17 days and males 24 days (average 2-7 days). In Virginia, males lived for 17 days.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
2 to 24 days.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
5 days.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
2 to 7 days.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
5 days.

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Reproduction

The mating system of clouded sulphurs has been well documented. As the male flies toward the female, she will land and the male will proceed to buffet his wings against her body, releasing pheremones that are produced in a gland in a patch on the upper surface of the hindwing. If the female detects the pheremone and it activates her responses, she will lower her abdomen and the pair will mate. Females will also approach males when they are ready to mate.

As a male clouded sulphur flies toward a female, she will land and the male will proceed to buffet his wings against her body, releasing special communication chemicals (pheromomes) that are produced in a gland in a patch on the upper surface of the hindwing. If the female detects the pheremone and it activates her responses, she will lower her abdomen and the pair will mate. Females will also approach males when they are ready to mate.

Females that are less than one hour old cannot differentiate between the pheremones of clouded and orange sulphurs. It is during this time that the most frequent hybridization occurs. Usually, only sterile females are produced. When there is a female clouded sulphur and a male orange sulphur, viable offspring are produced.

There are several broods of clouded sulphurs from spring until fall, the actual number depending on the latitude. Colias philodice vitabunda flies mainly from June until mid-July.

Breeding interval: Clouded suphurs are univoltine.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from spring through fall, depending on the latitude.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Butterflies do not exhibit parental care.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

  • Opler, P., G. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies East of the Great Plains. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
  • Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Colias philodice

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 6 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

GATATTGGAACTTTATATTTTATTTTTGGTGTGTGAGCAGGAATAATTGGAACTTCTTTA---AGTTTATTAATTCGTACAGAATTAGGTAATCCTGGATCGCTAATTGGAGAT---GATCAAATTTATAACACTATTGTTACAGCTCATGCCTTTATTATAATTTTTTTTATAGTTATGCCAATTATAATTGGAGGATTTGGTAATTGATTAATTCCTTTGATA---TTAGGAGCCCCTGATATAGCTTTCCCACGTATAAATAATATAAGATTTTGATTACTACCCCCATCATTAACTTTATTAATTTCTAGAAGTATTGTTGAAAACGGAGCAGGAACAGGATGAACAGTTTACCCCCCTCTTTCTTCTAATATTGCCCATAGAGGATCTTCTGTTGATTTA---GCTATTTTTTCTCTTCATCTCGCAGGAATTTCCTCTATCCTAGGAGCAATTAATTTTATTACAACAATTATCAATATACGAATTAATAATATATCATTTGATCAAATACCTTTATTTGTGTGAGCAGTAGGAATTACTGCTTTATTATTATTATTATCATTACCAGTTTTAGCTGGT---GCAATTACTATACTATTAACTGATCGGAATTTAAATACCTCTTTTTTTGACCCTGCTGGGGGAGGAGACCCAATTCTTTATCAACATTTATTTTGATTTTTTGGACATCCCGAAGTATATATTCTAATTTTACCAGGATTTGGTATAATTTCACATATCATTTCTCAAGAAAGAGGAAAAAAA---GAAACTTTTGGATCTTTAGGAATAATTTATGCTATAATAGCAATTGGTTTATTAGGATTTATTGTATGAGCTCATCATATATTTACAGTTGGAATAGATATTGATACTCGAGCTTATTTCACCTCAGCAACTATAATTATTGCTGTACCTACAGGTATTAAAATTTTTAGTTGATTA---GCAACATTATATGGTACA---CAAATTAACTATAGTCCTTCTATATTATGAAGATTAGGATTTGTATTTTTATTTACTGTAGGGGGATTAACAGGGGTAATTTTAGCTAATTCATCTATTGATATTATTCTTCATGATACTTATTATGTTGTAGCACATTTCCATTATGTT---TTATCAATAGGAGCTGTATTTGCAATTTTAGGAGGATTTATTCATTGATATCCTCTATTTACAGGATTAATATTAAATCCATTTTATCTTAAAATTCAATTTATTACTATATTTATTGGAGTAAATTTAACTTTTTTTCCTCAACATTTTTTAGGTTTAGCTGGAATACCTCGT---CGATATTCAGATTACCCAGATAATTATCTT---TCTTGAAATATCATTTCATCATTAGGATCTTATATTTCTTTAATTGGAACAATCATAATAATAATAATTATTTGAGAATCTATAATTAATAAACATTTTATT---ATTTTTTCAATAAATATACCTTCTTCT
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Colias philodice

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 122
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Not of concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Abundant in U.S. and Canada. Occasional economic pest of clover and alfalfa fields.

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This species is common rangewide and receives no special protections.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Threats

Degree of Threat: D : Unthreatened throughout its range, communities may be threatened in minor portions of the range or degree of variation falls within natural variation

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This species is sometimes thought of as a pest species due to the larvae feeding on crop plants.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Clouded sulphurs provide aesthetic benefits to humans, and many people enjoy watching them.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism

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Wikipedia

Colias philodice

The Common or Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) is a North American butterfly in the family Pieridae, subfamily Coliadinae.

Contents

Description [edit]

The upper side of the male's wings is yellow with black borders. The upper side of the female's wings is either yellow or greenish-white with yellow- or white-spotted black borders. The underside of the male's wings is yellow while the female's is yellow or greenish-white, and both have a double hind wing spot trimmed in brownish-red. Its wingspan 32 to 54 mm.[1]

White form female
White form

This species has a white form which can be confused with a Pieris rapae.

Habitat [edit]

This butterfly may be encountered in fields, lawns, Alfalfa or Clover fields, meadows, and roadsides. Swarms of these butterflies will congregate at mud puddles. They range over most of North America with the exception of Labrador, Nunavut, and northern Quebec.[1]

Nectar Plants [edit]

Clouded Sulphurs nectar at flowers such as Milkweed (Asclepias sp.), Butterfly Bush (Buddleja sp.), Coneflower (Dracopis, Echinacea, and Rudbeckia), Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), Dandelion (Taraxacum sp.), Clover (Trifolium sp.), and Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis) and many more.

Host Plants [edit]

Ground-Plum (Astragalus crassicarpus), Platte River Milk-Vetch (Astragalus plattensis), Soy-Bean (Glycine max), Deer-Vetch (Lotus spp.), Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), White Sweet-Clover (Melilotus albus), Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), White Clover (Trifolium repens), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Vetch (Vicia spp.)

Life cycle [edit]

The pale yellow eggs are laid singly on the host plants. The eggs turn red after a few days, then turn gray just before they hatch. The young larvae will eat one another. The larva is green with a white stripe running along each side of the body. The white stripes may contain bars or lines of pink or orange. The green chrysalis hangs up right by a silken girdle. Just before eclosion, the chrysalis turns yellow with a pink "zipper".

Gallery [edit]

See also [edit]

Colias eurytheme - Orange Sulphur

References [edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Although this species hybridizes with COLIAS EURYTHEME, it is considered distinct.

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