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Clouded Sulphur

Colias philodice philodice Godart, 1819

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Adult ventral photo (Click to enlarge)
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Adult ventral photo - White female of Clouded or Orange Sulphur (Click to enlarge)
Distribution Map
Ohio county distribution
Records by Month
Flight period (Temporal distribution)

STATUS: Resident; common.

DISTRIBUTION/RANGE: Statewide (see map). This species has been recorded from all 88 counties.

HABITAT: This species can be found in virtually any open area. It is especially common in clover and alfalfa fields, pastures, old fields, and along roadsides,

HOSTPLANT(S): In Ohio, this species has been recorded on two introduced plants, red clover and white clover. Other legumes are also probably used.

ADULT ENERGY RESOURCES: Alfalfa, red clover, white clover, dandelion, winter cress, common milkweed, butterfly-weed, peppermint, butter-and-eggs, sunflower, horseweed, and asters. Adults also imbibe moisture from damp soil and mud.

FLIGHT PERIOD: Many overlapping broods throughout the summer (see graph). Although it is difficult to tell from the histogram, there are between three to five generations a year. Extreme dates range from 17 April to 2 December.

SIMILAR SPECIES: Both sexes of the Alfalfa Butterfly (Colias eurytheme) can be confused with C. philodice. These two species hybridize frequently, and intermediates are common. For this study, only pure yellow specimens are considered to represent C. philodice. White females of these two species are not as easily separated (see photo). On average, white females of C. philodice have narrower black margins on the dorsal wings than do white females of C. eurytheme. Unfortunately, many females, especially hybrids, are essentially impossible to identify with any certainty.

GENERAL COMMENTS: This is one of Ohio's most common butterflies. This species is most abundant in late summer and reaches its highest densities in clover and alfalfa fields. Prior to the introduction of its agriculturally important foodplants, this species was probably less common than it is today.

This species is extremely variable both is size and color pattern. Spring brood individuals tend to be smaller, darker below, and a paler yellow than summer brood individuals. White females are common, particularly in late summer and may represent up to 40% of the females in some populations (Shapiro, 1966). Females range from white, to buff, to yellow. Aberrations and somewhat melanic individuals are fairly common.

In flight, this butterfly flies rapidly and erratically, usually within one meter of the ground. Colias philodice is usually less common than C. eurytheme.

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