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Friday, September 7, 2012

Cabbage and Sulpher Butteflies

When I was a kid I would chase these white and yellow butterflies all over the back field and could often catch them. But I never worked very hard to learn which ones were which. That's probably because my dad just called them all "cabbage butterflies."

Actually, only the white ones are cabbage butterflies. Guess what the caterpillars like to eat. Cabbage relatives like broccoli and cauliflower are favorites too. This is the cabbage white, or sometimes called small cabbage white, Pieris rapae. I'm going to point out the key identification marks in hopes that it will remind me.

cabbage white butterfly

First of all, it's white. It has one black spot on the underside of the forewing. One rarely sees the top side of the wings because they always land closed, but sometimes you find a dead one that is open. If it has two spots on top, it's a female.

On to butterflies that look almost like this, except they are yellow. Here's the clouded sulpher, Colias philodice.

clouded sulpher butterfly

It's yellow. Except when the yellow is so pale that it looks white. Hmmm. OK, it has a double spot on the hind wing and a single spot on the forewing. Now, for those pink edges. I guess those are not rare, but usually it's just yellow. There is a species named the pink-edged sulpher, however it has only one spot on the hindwing, and it's more southern. I think the green eyeball and punk hairdo are cool!

Next, we have the orange sulpher, Colias eurytheme.

clouded sulpher butterfly

These, too, can be pale, almost white. But they always have some orange on the top of the wings, and that double spot on the hind wing. Now that I've been paying attention, you can tell them easily when watching them fly because they definitely look like the old "yellow-orange" color in the Crayola box.

Also, see that line of darker spots like a border. Now look "through" the wing, and you'll realize that is actually sort of a shadow of a dark band that is on the top side. But it apparently hybridizes with the clouded sulpher. I suspect it's all very difficult for an amateur (which I definitely am on this topic). But I'll keep trying. Maybe I'll be able to get more pictures.

These are all very common, and the fields are full of them right now.

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betchai said...

it's very hard for me to get good shots of these butterflies, they seem to be always fluttering around and never stopping for me :( love your shots and also love learning these info.

vanilla said...

Your lessons are illustrated with such beautiful photography!

Secondary Roads said...

Very interesting and nicely illustrated with those fine photos.

Jean said...

I have always been confused by these butterflies. Thanks for the post with pics.

Sharkbytes said...

betchai- I just keep trying, and some come out ok. The only really good one is the clouded sulpher

vanilla- thanks, friend. I just hope I remember the lessons

Chuck- I keep trying to learn more

Jean- me too! The lessons are as much for me as you all!

Walk in the Woods said...

They are lovely. And while I enjoy them fluttering around my garden, I *do* watch for the "worms" and … "manage" them. :) With love, of course.

Lin said...

Lots of butterflies these days as they scramble before fall weather sets in. I'm hoping the frogs don't eat them!

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