22 June 2012

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Two years ago and again early this year I posted photos of color polymorphism (an alba variant) in this butterfly.  Now I can finally present the full life cycle.

I found the eggs on common vetch growing in our back garden and brought them inside to keep in a small plastic container on my desk.  At first I wasn't sure what species they were, and even when the small green caterpillars hatched I couldn't quite tell.  As they approached full size (top photo), I was pretty sure it was the common Clouded Sulphur.  Most people are familiar with this butterfly, though perhaps not by name, because it is common and widespread (because it's able to utilize a variety of common legumes as hosts for the larvae).

Yesterday I posted images of the caterpillar forming a "J" (left) and then transforming into a chrysalis (right):

One particularly nice feature of raising butterflies at home is being able to watch the buttefly develop inside the chrysalis.  Here's the Monarch inside its now-transparent chrysalis:

It's truly beautiful, and watching it pop out and then inflate those wings is just magical.

So - here's the Clouded Sulphur inside its chrysalis several days before it hatched:

The head is at the top, with the wings folded over the thorax - exhibiting a beautiful pastel palette of colors.

And here (s)he is on the day of eclosion, holding onto a twig while the wings dry and become stiff enough for flight (double click for wallpaper size).  How can you not love those big green eyes?

Most butterflies prefer to keep their wings folded vertically when they are at rest; my guess is that this allows them to lift off more quickly if startled or attacked.  I couldn't get a photo of the dorsum of these wings, but you can see examples here.


  1. I would have thought the folded wings also present a smaller visible target, as well as a more difficult attack.

  2. Not only smaller, but the underside of the wings are typically camouflaged, while the dorsum displays brighter colors.

  3. If this is the same butterfly,I believe it is, I see these flying southeast in the fall. I wonder if they migrate to somewhere in the deep southeast? Its interesting watching them go southeast as the Monarch's head southwest...


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