Sleepy Orange, Little Yellow & Dainty Sulphur

Sleepy Orange butterflies are visitors to Ohio. They are slightly smaller than our more common Orange Sulphurs. Sleepy Oranges have a different shape when resting (more pointed/ elongated). They often have a large brown patch on the underside of their wings, but this feature is variable.

Little Yellow butterflies (aka Little Sulphurs) are another visitor to our state. They are rather uncommon in most years. When present, Little Yellows usually show up in late summer and fall. The individual at left was photographed at Sweet Arrow Reserve in Bellbrook.

This is a Dainty Sulphur butterfly. These tiny butterflies are even smaller than Little Yellows. Dainty Sulphurs are the size of a small skipper butterfly. Their lemon-yellow wings have an orange streak along the upper edge. Their wings also have faint grayish scaling and a few small black spots shaped like teardrops. 

Sleepy Orange butterflies can be distinguished from Orange Sulphurs by their smaller size. They also have more of a burnt orange color when seen in flight. Sleepy Oranges use wild senna and partridge peas as host plants. These butterflies are most numerous in areas where their host plants are common, such as the Caesar Creek Wildlife Area. 

Little Yellow butterflies are a clear lemon yellow color, like Clouded Sulphurs, but Little Yellows are much smaller. They usually have a small brown dot near the edge of the hindwing. 

This is my latest date for a Sleepy Orange sighting: November 5, 2017. This butterfly had found what was probably the last clover in bloom on the Cox Arboretum prairie. I spent some time watching him, and he always returned to that one clover blossom, his lifeline to nectar. 

This Little Yellow is sipping nectar from a tiny aster flower. I saw a handful of Little Yellows in 2018 and 2019, and only one in 2017, but they can be numerous if we get an unusually good year for migrant butterflies (such as 2012). 

This Sleepy Orange does not have a noticeable brown patch, unlike the individual above. Like most migrants, their numbers vary from year to year. Sleepy Oranges are fairly uncommon in some years but more common in others. I have seen them from late May through early November, but they are most numerous in late summer and fall. 

Dainty Sulphurs are rare strays from the south. 2012 was the last year when Ohio saw a large invasion of this species. After that came a seven-year drought for me. I finally got the chance to see Dainty Sulphurs again in 2019. I saw one individual in Miamisburg in July 2019, and another solitary individual at Oakes Quarry in Fairborn on August 31st. Then, I found two good colonies of Dainty Sulphurs along the Great Miami River near Middletown, in October 2019. 

If we ever get another big year like 2012, Dainty Sulphurs could turn up anywhere. Until then, you will probably have the best luck looking for migrants along riverways, like the Great Miami. They prefer habitat that was wet earlier in the year but dries up in late summer and fall. Dainty Sulphurs always stay low to the ground. They prefer areas where the ground is mostly bare except for low-growing carpets of weeds.