Butterflies of Mexico, USA & Canada
Common Sulphur
Colias philodice  GODART, 1819
subfamily - COLIADINAE
Tribe -
Colias philodice female, New York, USA  Frank Model
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 and puna grasslands. There are 18 species in North America, two of which also occur in Central America; and there is one species endemic to Hawaii.
All 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 the majority are some shade of yellow. Males of most species have narrow black wing borders. In females the borders are much wider, and the ground colour is always paler.
Colias philodice is distributed from Alaska and western Canada, to Guatemala.
Colias philodice male, Tennessee, USA  Ken Childs
This species, due to it's migratory behaviour, can be found in almost any habitat within it's range, but is most abundant in Medicago ( alfalfa ) fields.
The eggs are cream coloured when first laid, but soon turn crimson as the larva develops within. They are laid singly or in two's and three's on the leaflets of Leguminosae including Astragalus, Baptisia, Caragana, Cytisus, Hedysarum, Lathyrus, Lotus, Lupinus, Medicago, Melilotus, Robinia, Pisum, Thermopsis, Trifolium and Vicia. The fully grown larva is green, with a faint mid-dorsal line. There is a white lateral line, with a pinkish line running through it, and a series of black dashes beneath it. The caterpillars hibernate overwinter when in the 3rd or 4th instar.
Adult behaviour
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. They then undergo another period of rest, before resuming their search for a mate.
Females, after 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.


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