Butterflies of the
Dark Clouded Yellow
Family - PIERIDAE
subfamily - COLIADINAE
Colias fieldii male, Yoksam, West
There are over 80 species of
Colias worldwide, of which the majority
are inhabitants of temperate grasslands or sub-arctic tundra. In
South America there are 5 species found on the Andean paramo
grasslands. There are 18 species in North America and one species
endemic to Hawaii. There are 7 species in India:
ladakensis from Kashmir; erate
which occurs in the Nilgiri hills and in north India;
and stoliczkana which are found in
Sikkim; and fieldii which is common and
widespread across the Himalayan foothills.
Colias species are migratory in
behaviour. Some simply move up and down mountainsides as the seasons
advance, to take advantage of fresh growth of their larval
foodplants and adult nectar sources. Others undertake much longer
migrations - e.g. Colias crocea, which
migrates annually from North Africa to northern Europe.
Colias are collectively known as
Sulphurs in North America, but elsewhere in the world they are
called Clouded Yellows. On the upper surface of the wings the ground
colour varies from pure white to deep orange according to species,
but most are some shade of yellow. Males generally have narrow black
wing borders. In females the borders are much wider, and the ground
colour is paler.
Colias fieldii has a range extending
from Iran to China.
Due to it's
migratory behaviour, this species can be found in almost any habitat
within it's range, but is most abundant in ungrazed grassy areas
where herbaceous Fabaceae are profuse. It is generally a montane
species, found at elevations between about 1000-2500m.
The eggs are cream
coloured when first laid, but turn crimson as the larva develops
within. They are laid singly on the leaflets of Fabaceae.
Males of all
Colias species have a distinctive cycle
of behaviour. They patrol back and forth over the breeding sites in
search of females for several minutes at a time, and then suddenly
swoop down and settle on bare soil. There they remain for several
more minutes, even in hot sunny conditions when they would be
expected to continue flying. After resting for a while they take
flight again, but instead of patrolling for females they fly from
flower to flower, nectaring for a few seconds before moving on to
the next. This cycle is repeated throughout the morning until a
receptive female is encountered. Copulation follows after a brief
chase, and lasts for about an hour.
mating, follow a different cycle of behaviour. They typically spend
several minutes nectaring, then rest for a while, and then go on an
egg-laying run, during which they fly rapidly back and forth across
the breeding site, stopping here and there for a moment to glue an
egg to a leaf. They then have a rest and recovery period of about 15
minutes before repeating the cycle.
female, Yoksam, West Sikkim, India