A pretty yellow butterfly that flits around from flower to flower. It’s so delicate that it barely seems like it’s real.
However, the clouded sulphur butterfly (Colias philodice) is one of the most common butterflies in the state of Iowa. Let’s take a look at some of the neat facts about it:
Clouded sulphurs get their name from the chemical compound.
Sulphur, or sulfur, is a yellow nonmetal. We typically notice sulfur by the smell — it smells like rotten eggs — but it is also a bright yellow color. Clouded sulphurs take after the color, not the smell of sulfur.
They like “weeds.”
We often talk about the need to keep some “weeds” in your yard as habitat and food sources, and the clouded sulphur needs two of the most dreaded “weeds.” Adults love dandelions, and its caterpillar’s host plant is white clover. So helping the clouded sulphur is a great excuse to leave dandelions and clover in your yard.
Clouded sulphurs are quite small.
Clouded sulphurs are common, but they are quite small so they may be overlooked. These yellow butterflies range from 1.3 inches to 2 inches wide.
They hibernate in Iowa.
Clouded sulphurs are active in Iowa April-October, and the last generation of caterpillars will hatch at the end of the season and will hibernate in their larval state until spring.
They aren’t cloudless.
Clouded sulphurs often get confused for cloudless sulphurs, in both name and appearance. However, cloudless sulphurs are most common in the southern U.S. and Mexico.
Sometimes, sulphurs interbreed.
Female clouded sulphurs that are less than one hour old cannot differentiate between the pheromones 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.
They have short lifespans.
In general, clouded sulphur adult butterflies only live two-three days, although some have been documented to live up to three weeks.
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