Monday, August 31, 2009

Alfalfa Butterfly

This yellow beauty is the Alfalfa Butterfly, or sometimes referred to as the Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme). They are very common and are found throughout most of North America. Average in size with around 2-2 1/2 inch wingspan they certainly aren't the largest or most impressive of butterflies. What they lack in size, they more than make up for in color and sheer numbers. They have yellowish-orange wings with a distinctive black band outlining the edges of each wing. On the upper wings there is a black spot in the center of each. On the two lower wings there is an orange spot in the center. Mating take place in early spring. After mating, the female will lay eggs singly on the leaves of the host plant. In the case of these butterflies it will be clover, and alfalfa. The female will stay close to the ground (usually within 6 inches) as she flutters around laying her eggs. It takes between 3 to 10 days for the eggs to hatch, depending upon the weather conditions. In about 2 weeks they will reach 2 inches in length, it is at this point they will form their cocoon, that is suspended from the leaves of the host plant. These butterflies are prolific breeders and can have up to 7 generations per year. The last generation will overwinter in the pupal stage and emerge the following spring.

These butterflies can be found in open fields, meadows, prairies, backyards, gardens, and along roadsides. The adults nectar from various flowers, and will also come to mud puddles for minerals. Often they will converge on nearby puddles in large numbers. These little butterflies are quick to fly and are sometimes difficult to approach. It is very difficult to photograph them with their wings spread, as they tend to rest with their wings closed and rarely spread them open. The first photograph was at Happy Holler Conservation Area, it almost went unnoticed by me as it blends in so well with the yellow flower it was nectaring at. The second photo shows one nectaring at sedum. Love the green eyes!


  1. This butterfly is very common with us and we call it "yellow butterfly". Even I saw them flying in winter season.

  2. I usually start seeing them in April or May here, and they stick around until about October. Seems they are gone as soon as the first light frost hits.I can't imagine seeing one in the winter, that would be sight to see for sure. I think they are so pretty for a commonly seen butterfly.