Clouded Sulphur

Colias philodice

Copyright, Ohio Lepidopterists

The Clouded Sulphur is one of our most common butterflies. They are most often see flying low over lawns and fields. They are a medium-sized butterfly, with a wingspan of up to two inches wide. Males and females are slightly different. Males are yellow with a sharp black border on the wings. Females are a duller yellow with yellow spots inside the black border. Both sexes have single black spots on the forewings, and dull orange spots on the hindwings. Underneath, there is no black border, but there is a silver spot, outlined in pink, on each hind wing. You can see this when the butterfly is resting with its wings folded.

Clouded Sulphurs can be seen from March to September. There are several broods (batches) each year.

After mating, female sulphurs lay eggs, one at a time, on leaves of host plants. Host plants are food for caterpillars. Some host plants of Clouded Sulphurs include clovers and Black Locust. When the caterpillars (larvae) hatch, they begin eating the plants right away.

Clouded Sulphur caterpillars are bright green with a dark back stripe and two light side stripes. When the caterpillars are fully grown, they form a chrysalis (pupa, or resting, stage). The adult butterfly comes out of the pupa.

Any chrysalids that are around when the weather gets cold will overwinter, and the butterflies will emerge in early Spring.

Ohio History Central

Copyright, Mike Reese

Adult Clouded Sulphurs drink nectar from many different flowers, including: clovers, milkweeds, goldenrods, asters, dandelions, thistles, and sunflowers.

They also get moisture from puddles of water, mud, and animal poop. You will often see many sulphurs together collecting moisture. This is called "puddling."

Clouded Sulphurs are usually seen in open areas. Besides lawns and fields, you may see them in parks, gardens, streambanks, and roadsides. They fly close to the ground and are very fast. They seem to be flying all over the place.

These butterflies help pollinate plants they get nectar from. When a butterfly drinks nectar from a flower, pollen gets on its body. When it goes to another flower of the same type, it accidentally drops off some of the first pollen. This helps the plants grow seeds and spread.

Predators of Clouded Sulphurs include birds, dragonflies, mantids, frogs and animals that eat caterpillars, such as beetles, squirrels, and shrews. If they fall in the water, they cannot get out, so they will probably be eaten by fish, crayfish, or aquatic insects.

Additional Media

Clouded Sulphur Feeding
Mark Moran
Butterfly Anatomy Diagram
Link to Printable Page
Download Quicktime if you are unable to play video.

Relationships in Nature:


Red Clover

Green Darner

Red Clover

Red Clover H Po

Black Locust

Chinese Mantid

Black Locust

Goldenrod Po


Goldenrod Spider

Common Milkweed Po

Common Milkweed

Least Shrew

Bull Thistle Po

Bull Thistle

Fiery Searcher

Common Dandelion Po

Common Dandelion

Pennsylvania Firefly

Black-eyed Susan Po

Black-eyed Susan

Great Crested Flycatcher

Buttonbush Po


American Robin

Bird-foot Violet Po

Bird-foot Violet

Blue Jay

Bushy Aster Po

Bushy Aster

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Wild Strawberry Po

Wild Strawberry

Eastern Chipmunk

Black Locust H

Southern Leopard Frog



Northern Ringneck Snake

Eastern Box Turtle

Northern Cardinal

Big Brown Bat

Wild Turkey

Bald-faced Hornet

Relationship to Humans:

Clouded Sulphurs don't help people in too many ways, other than providing beauty in a garden. They do help pollinate plants, such as clover. Some people consider clover a weed, so this doesn't help. Others, such as beekeepers, like this since bees use clover to make honey. You could also look at it a different way. Sulphur caterpillars eat clover, so they help control it. Most of the caterpillars won't be alive long enough to pollinate the weeds, since they will most likely be prey to other animals first.


Colias philodice


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