Clouded Sulphur

image of a Clouded Sulphur on a wildflower
Scientific Name
Colias philodice
Pieridae (whites, sulphurs, yellows)

Adult male clouded sulphurs are yellow and the wings have a distinct black border. Females are duller, and the black border of their wings has yellow spots. Albino females are common. All adults have one black spot on each forewing and faint orange spots on the hindwings. When wings are folded, the black border is concealed, but you can see a silver spot outlined in pink on each hindwing.

Larvae are slender and green with a darker dorsal line and a white or yellowish stripe along each side. There is sometimes a rosy tint on the body.

Other Common Names
Common Sulphur

Wingspan: 1–2 inches.

Where To Find
image of Clouded Sulphur Distribution Map


Common in fields and yards, the clouded sulphur is attracted to mud puddles and visits many flowers.

Larvae eat leafy members of the bean or pea family, particularly clovers. Adults drink nectar from a variety of flowers, including clovers and milkweeds, plus dandelions, thistles, and other members of the sunflower family. Adults often congregate at mud puddles and even animal excrement to extract valuable moisture and minerals.

Common, resident species, but not as abundant as the related alfalfa butterfly.

Life Cycle

Adults fly from late March into December. There are at least three broods a year.

In addition to their considerable aesthetic value, butterflies pollinate plants, many of which have commercial importance. Additionally, because butterflies are sensitive to toxins and disturbance, they are good indicators of the overall status of ecosystems.

The word “butterfly” probably originated because of the yellow color of European sulphurs.

The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators.

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Similar Species
About Butterflies and Moths in Missouri
Butterflies, skippers, and moths belong to an insect order called the Lepidoptera — the "scale-winged" insects. These living jewels have tiny, overlapping scales that cover their wings like shingles. The scales, whether muted or colorful, seem dusty if they rub off on your fingers. Many butterflies and moths are associated with particular types of food plants, which their caterpillars must eat in order to survive.
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