Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly – Phoebis sennae

Large yellow Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) butterflies are found in the entire eastern half of the United States as well as the southern part of the western United States.

Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly Phoebis sennae Liatrias Flower

Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly
Phoebis sennae
Liatrias Flower

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies Phoebis sennae Cape Honeysuckle Blooms

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies
Phoebis sennae
Cape Honeysuckle Blooms

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies Phoebis sennae Yellow or Green Butterfly

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies
Phoebis sennae
Yellow or Green Butterfly?

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies Phoebis sennae Camouflaged

Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly
Phoebis sennae
Camouflaged

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies Phoebis sennae Deep into hibiscus flower

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies
Phoebis sennae
Deep into hibiscus flower

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies Phoebis sennae Egg, young caterpillar, and rear end of larger caterpillar

Cloudless Sulphur
Phoebis sennae
Egg, young caterpillar, and
rear end of larger caterpillar

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies Phoebis sennae Egg on Cassia Senna plant

Cloudless Sulphur
Phoebis sennae
Egg on Cassia Senna plant

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar Phoebis sennae Cassia Senna plant

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar
Phoebis sennae
Cassia Senna plant

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar Phoebis sennae Cassia Senna plant

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar
Phoebis sennae
Cassia Senna plant

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar Phoebis sennae Cassia Senna plant

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar
Sewed leaves together
Phoebis sennae

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar Phoebis sennae Changing colors

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar
Phoebis sennae
Changing colors

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar Phoebis sennae Yellow Caterpillar

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar
Phoebis sennae
Yellow Caterpillar

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar Phoebis sennae Yellow Stripe

Cloudless Sulphur Caterpillar
Phoebis sennae
Yellow Stripe

Cloudless Sulphur 2 Caterpillars Phoebis sennae Preparing to molt

Cloudless Sulphur 2 Caterpillars Phoebis sennae Preparing to molt

Cloudless Sulphur J'ing Phoebis sennae Preparing to pupate

Cloudless Sulphur J’ing
Phoebis sennae
Preparing to pupate

Cloudless Sulphur Chrysalis Phoebis sennae On a gate

Cloudless Sulphur Chrysalis
Phoebis sennae
On a gate

Cloudless Sulphur Chrysalis Phoebis sennae Various Colors

Cloudless Sulphur Chrysalises
Phoebis sennae
Various Colors

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies Phoebis sennae Migrate toward non-freezing areas in the winter.

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies
Phoebis sennae
Migrate toward non-freezing
areas in the winter.

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies Phoebis sennae Females have larger spots on the outside of their hindwings

Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies
Females have larger spots
on the outside
of their hindwings

Candlestick Cassia  Emperor Cassia  Cassia alata

Candlestick Cassia
Emperor Cassia
Cassia alata

Christmas Cassia  Senna bicapsularis Blooms in the Fall

Christmas Cassia
Senna bicapsularis
Blooms in the Fall

Partridge Pea  Chamaecrista fasciculata  Grows wild along roadsides and in fields

Partridge Pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata
Grows wild along roadsides
and in fields

Septic Weed cassia obtusifolia Grows wild in fields

Septic Weed
Cassia obtusifolia
Grows wild in fields
Grows 6′ tall and 8′ wide

Sicklepod Cassia Senna obtusifolia Weeds in fields and crops

Sicklepod Cassia
Senna obtusifolia
Weeds in fields and crops
May grow over 8′ tall

Because they are large yellow active butterflies, Cloudless Sulphur butterflies quickly attract our attention in our gardens. Although they are considered yellow, many people consider them light green. When yellow scales are wiped off their wings, a yellow-green layer of scales remains. (Another large yellow butterfly in the southern US is the Orange-barred Sulphur.)

Cloudless Sulphur butterflies are found in almost all of the mainland United States. The extreme northwestern states would rarely, if ever, see this particular species of butterfly.

Their host plants are Cassia/Senna plants in the pea family. There are both wild ‘weedy’ and garden-invasive species as well as cultivated species of Cassia and Senna plants.

Many gardeners buy Christmas Cassia, Candlestick Cassia, or some of the other cultivated varieties and never notice caterpillars on the plants. The caterpillars are perfectly camouflaged. When they eat green leaves, they turn the color of the green leaves. When they eat yellow blooms, their body will change color to yellow.

Hatchling butterfly caterpillars are nearly microscopic. They grow thousands of times their hatchling size before they pupate.

Caterpillars normally rest along the leaf vein or leaf petiole/stem.

Adult butterflies are attracted primarily to red, orange, and purple colors. When they are in a yard, they’ll often dip down toward red lenses over car taillights.

Chrysalis colors will vary from yellow to pink to green to purple. Normally most will pupate on a plant and will be green. The chrysalis shape is much like a host plant leaf.

Chrysalises on black screen will be purple. Their chrysalis color depends upon the color of the items close to or on which they pupate.

Adult Cloudless Sulphur butterflies are also well camouflaged when they rest. They normally land on a leaf or item that is very near the same color as their wings.

The host plants, Senna or Cassia, are poisonous. Several species of host plants are greatly disliked by farmers. Growing in my Daddy’s squash, okra, and peanut fields in central Florida, Sicklepod Cassia was hoed, weeded, and a general headache to all of us who worked in the fields. When Daddy realized I was growing this plant on purpose, to feed caterpillars, he would just shake his head at me and grin. He would say, grinning, “I cannot believe you are growing that weed ON PURPOSE.”

Seed from many of these plants will remain viable for decades under the soil. When the ground is turned for a crop, seed that is turned close to the surface of the soil will sprout and grow, over 50 years from the day they first fell from the Cassia plant.

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