Look for Clouded Sulphur Butterflies in Your Backyard

The pretty yellow clouded sulphur is a common sight in the butterfly garden. Learn more about this colorful butterfly species.

clouded sulphur butterflyCourtesy Charlene Denise Maples
Clouded sulphur butterfly

Where to Find Clouded Sulphur Butterflies

Ever wondered where the “butter” in the word “butterfly” comes from? Yellow butterflies like the clouded sulphur (Colias philodice) help explain it! In many parts of the country, clouded sulphurs are one of the most common butterfly species. You’ll see them along roadsides where wildflowers grow, fluttering over fields of alfafa or clover, and right in your own butterfly garden. This species is common in the eastern U.S. and southern Canada, and is also spotted regularly out west, with a few sightings as far north as Alaska.

Similar Species

They are members of the Pieridae family, which also includes the cabbage white (Pieris rapae), and Clouded Sulphur females also have a white form which is easily confused with the cabbage white.

It’s also easily confused with the cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae). But the black edging on the topsides of the wings easily sets the clouded sulphur apart. The problem is, you rarely see this species with its wings open. However, the black usually shows through on the bottom, especially in good light. So if you can get a close look, you should be able to tell. Range may also help. Clouded Sulphurs don’t fly in south Texas, Florida, and most of California.

How to Attract a Clouded Sulphur Butterfly

Attract these beauties to your butterfly garden with lots of nectar plants, including coneflowers. Their host plants include alfalfa, clovers, and members of the vetch family. Some of these are pretty weedy, so you may not want to include them in your garden unless it’s fairly wild already. The caterpillar is bright green with a white or yellow lateral stripe down each side. The chrysalis resembles those of other members of the sulphur family.

Looking for more plants to attract butterflies? Check out our favorite long-blooming butterfly flowers!

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.