Clouded and Orange Sulphurs

Orange Sulphur on a clover blossom. Both this species and its cousin, the Clouded Sulphur, are abundant in our area, but they can sometimes be tricky to tell apart. Orange Sulphurs generally have at least a hint of orange color, whereas Clouded Sulphurs are pure pastel lemon yellow. The individual at left appears to have a pale yellow hindwing in this lighting, but the orange glow on the forewing gives it away as an Orange Sulphur.

This Orange Sulphur was photographed November 29, 2016, at Cox Arboretum. The weather was cold enough that this butterfly was easily coaxed onto my fingertip. Sulphurs have some of the longest flight periods of any butterfly in Ohio. I have seen Orange and Clouded Sulphurs as early as March 9th and as late as December 2nd. 

This is an Orange Sulphur nectaring on blue mistflowers. Sulphurs almost always land with their wings closed, and it is very difficult to photograph them with wings open like this. 

This is a Clouded Sulphur on echinacea. These butterflies are pure pastel lemon yellow, without any hint of orange or warm yellow. (However, the two species have been known to hybridize, complicating matters.)

As soon as I saw this Clouded Sulphur, I knew something was wrong because these butterflies usually don't rest with the upper surface of their wings visible. Sure enough, this Clouded Sulphur had fallen into the clutches of a crab spider. These tiny spiders lurk inside flowers, waiting for the opportunity to nab butterflies when they come in search of nectar. Photographed at Koogler Reserve.

This is an Orange Sulphur on a white daisy. Both species of Sulphurs are abundant in our area, but the Orange Sulphur is the more common of the two.

Both Orange and Clouded Sulphurs will sometimes produce white form females. These can be mistaken for Cabbage Whites from a distance, but the black border inside their wings gives them away. Note that white form females cannot be identified to species in the field. 

Another Clouded Sulphur butterfly. I like to photograph Sulphur butterflies with the light shining through their wings, whenever possible. This makes it easier to see the colors and determine whether it is an Orange or Clouded Sulphur. 

Another Clouded Sulphur butterfly, photographed in Miamisburg. Again, the light shining through the wings here makes it obvious that this is a Clouded (rather than Orange) Sulphur. 

Here is a better look at a Clouded Sulphur in flight. I got a new camera in late 2021 that will hopefully enable me to get more flight shots going forward. Seeing the upper surface of the wings is the best way to tell these two species apart.