Yellow Butterflies (Coliadinae)
|Yellow Butterflies (Coliadinae)
Types of Butterflies
The yellow butterflies seen in fields, forests and backyards around North America also go by the name sulphur butterflies (Coliadinae).
With approximately two dozen native species, divided into ten separate genera, sulphurs show some diversity within the larger butterfly family, Pieridae.
Almost half of the Coliadinae species, approximately one dozen, belong to one genus, Colias. Most species grow to an above average size, having a two to three inch average wing span.
With a one inch wing span, the Dainty Sulfur (Nathalis iole), pictured above, measures in as the smallest sulfur butterfly.
The caterpillars feed on plants in the aster family, the largest plant genus in the world. The wide availability of plants provides the Dainty Sulfur with an extended range from Central American, north through the Midwestern United States.
It's also North America's sole Nathalis representative. The top picture highlights its winter form. During the summer, the top and bottom wings show more yellow.
Another one of a kind, the Sleepy Orange butterfly (Abaeis nicippe), picture two, represents the Abaeis genus for North America.
Common across much of the south, picture two highlights some dark wing patterns on the underwing, a good field identification clue.
Females display more marks than males. Winter colors on both genders appear brighter yellow.
The Lyside Sulphur (Kricogonia lyside), North America's sole representative of the Kricogonia genus, extends its range to the Southwest, Texas, and occasionally the lower Midwest.
Picture three presents a side view of the wings, devoid of a pattern, with a hint of green shading on the underside of the wing.
The Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia), picture four, one of two native Zerene species, might also be one of the most common North American Sulfur species.
Found from coast to coast, in the south, they fly year round in some areas and spring through fall in others.
The final picture presents a side view. The pointed tip at the top of the wing, along with the white spots in the middle of both the top and bottom wings, serve as the basic field identification marks.
The links in the box point to articles providing more detailed coverage of North American Colias, Phoebis and Pyrisitia species.
© 2008-2011. Patricia A. Michaels. All Rights Reserved.