Butterflies of New Mexico: The Sulphurs (Pieridae I: Coliadinae)

by Steven J. Cary

Sulphurs (Pieridae: Coliadinae). Our 21 species of sulphurs are tiny to medium large in size, with colors that range from orange through yellow, even to white. Upper surfaces have scales that reflect ultra-violet light in patterns that differ between species and between males and females within each species. Accordingly, sulphurs have vision that is finely tuned to UV wavelengths. There is a high frequency of albinism in females. Larvae of most sulphurs favor legumes (Fabaceae); a couple of species can reach pest proportions in alfalfa fields. Many of our larger sulphurs are subtropical strays that add surprise to the normal pleasures of butterflying in southern New Mexico in late summer. Photographers are routinely stymied by sulphurs because they open their wings only to fly or under duress. Usually a photographer seeks out the sunlit side of a butterfly to photograph, but illumination from behind can reveal the inside a sulphurs wings. Please let me know if you have excellent photos of sulphurs to share on this page.


Kricogonia lyside (Godart)                             Lyside Sulphur (updated December 30, 2020)

Description. Lyside is of medium size. Females are often immaculate yellow; males are usually pale with a bright yellow patch near the base of the dorsal forewing and dark marks near forewing and hindwing apices. Range and Habitat. Lyside breeds year-round in Central America,  but can wander as far north as the central Great Plains. It is a regular stray at low elevations in southern and eastern New Mexico, but irregular elsewhere (counties: Co,Cu,DB,DA,Ed,Gr,Gu,Hi,Le,Li,Lu, Ot,Qu,Ro,SF,Si,So,Un). Life History. Larval hosts are subtropical, woody Zygophyllaceae. There is no evidence that Kricogonia lyside breeds anywhere in New Mexico or that potential hostplants even occur in the region. Flight. This species appears to have two peaks of activity in New Mexico: a weak influx in June and a stronger one in September. All observations fall between April 22 and November 29. Lyside experiences occasional northward fluxes and may be common in good years. Comments. Adults characteristically flutter beneath low tree canopies in desert washes, fly up underneath branches and disappear by perching, wings closed, among leaves bathed in diffuse, shady green light. The first record of this species visiting New Mexico is from 6 miles west of Portales (Ro) on 3 June 1966 (M. E. Toliver).

Lyside Sulphur (Kricogonia lyside) Guadalupe Canyon, Hidalgo Co., NM; September 3, 1983 (photo by Steve Cary).
Lyside Sulphur ( Kricogonia lyside) Weslaco, Hidalgo Co., TX, November 7, 2013 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Lyside Sulphur killed by spider (Kricogonia lyside) Guadalupe Canyon, Hidalgo Co., NM; September 3, 1983 (photo by Steve Cary).


Nathalis iole Boisduval                           Dainty Sulphur

Description. This, the smallest of all North American Pierids, resembles Eurema daira, but the ventral hindwing is darker and the dorsal hindwing has a strong black stripe at the costa. Range and Habitat. Dainty Sulphur occupies disturbed places across the southern US and throughout Central America. In New Mexico it can be encountered in almost any life zone, altitude and habitat. Adults diffuse northward and produce warm season generations in most of the US. In New Mexico it is literally ubiquitous: it is known from all counties and has been found from 3000 to 12,400′ elevation. In southern New Mexico it can be in flight any time of year. Life History. Larvae use weedy Asteraceae, including Bidens species Scott (1992) reported oviposition on Thelesperma megapotamicum and Dyssodia papposa at Storrie Lake (SM), 23 August 1978. Flight. Nathalis iole completes several generations annually depending on length of growing season. It flies year-round on our southern border, weather permitting. Adults fly near the ground to seek nectar and moisture. Comments. Curiously, this now common and ubiquitous insect was not reported by any 19th century worker in New Mexico.

Dainty Sulphur male (Nathalis iole) Sierra Grande, Union Co., NM; July 18, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).
Dainty Sulphur female positioning to place an egg (Nathalis iole) near Portales, Roosevelt Co., NM; May 7, 2015 (photo by James Lofton).
Dainty Sulphur backlit (Nathalis iole) Black Range, Sierra Co., NM; June 5, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).
Dainty Sulphur female (Nathalis iole) near Portales, Roosevelt Co., NM; May 7, 2015 (photo by James Lofton).
Dainty Sulphur female (Nathalis iole) eastern foothills, Jemez Mountains, Los Alamos Co., NM; June 26, 2019 (photo by Marc Bailey).


Eurema daira (Godart)                                Barred Yellow

All the Eurema species are small, yellow or orange butterflies with some black markings. Barred Yellow is yellowish with gray margins above, with a black streak along the DFW posterior margin. It is whitish-yellow below, like Nathalis iole. This tropical and subtropical sulfur lives from South America north to FL and N coastal Mexico. Despite its small size it does wander, which explains its rare appearance in NM (Hi). Various legumes (Fabaceae) are used as larval hosts in its breeding grounds, but there is no evidence of reproduction in NM. Our one report is from Whitmire Canyon, 5400′, Peloncillo Mountains (Hi), in July 1991 (K. Roever). It breeds year-round farther south, but strays are most likely here during the summer monsoon season. Adults fly near the ground. Its resemblance to the common, weedy Nathalis iole may cause it to be overlooked here and it may in fact be more common than we realize.

Barred Yellow summer form (Pyrisitia daira) Santa Cruz Co., AZ; September 4, 2012 (photo by Elaine Halbedel).
Barred Yellow winter form (Pyrisitia daira) Sarasota, Sarasota Co., FL; Dec. 9, 1983 (photo by Steve Cary).


Pyrisitia lisa (Boisduval & Le Conte)          Little Yellow (updated December 30, 2020)

Description. Little Yellow is little and yellow, with rounded wings. Above, the yellow is accented with black at forewing apices, along the forewing costa, and along the hindwing margin. Undersides are yellow mottled with brown squiggles and a small orange spot. Two basal black dots on the ventral forewing costa separate Pyrisitia lisa from Pyrisitia nise. Range and Habitat. This species is widespread in the neotropics and eastern and central US. In New Mexico it shows up most mostly in agricultural areas on the eastern side of the state (counties: Be,Cu,Ch,DB,Ed,Hi,Le,Li,Qu,Ro,SJ,Sv). Life History. Nothing is known of larval hosts in New Mexico, but herbaceous legumes (Fabaceae) are used elsewhere. It is believed to be only a seasonal resident in New Mexico because it cannot survive harsh winters. Flight. There is one report each for April and June; all other records fall between September 1 and November 1. Lack of early season reports suggests a species that is winter-killed and then is reintroduced the following year. Little Yellows fly close to the ground, but will come to nectar. Comments. Northwest New Mexico records dating to the 1920s (SJ,Sv) may be attributed to artificial introduction via livestock forage; there are no recent reports from these areas. This butterfly is known in some field guides as Eurema lisa.

Little Yellow (Pyrisitia lisa) Mazatlan Airport, Sinaloa, Mexico; April 28, 1998 (photo by Steve Cary).


Pyrisitia nise (Cramer)                            Mimosa Yellow (updated December 30, 2020)

Description. Yellow Pyrisitia nise looks much like Pyrisitia lisa, but it is a little larger, usually lacks the black margin on the dorsal hindwing, the black scaling on the dorsal forewing costa and the two basal black dots on the ventral forewing costa. Range and Habitat. Mimosa Yellows occur along our southern border, but only rarely (counties: Ed,Hi,Lu). They breed in the Neotropics and subtropics, sometimes wandering north as far as New Mexico; occasional fresh specimens suggest seasonal reproduction. This species is multivoltine farther south. Life History. Larvae eat legumes (Fabaceae). Bailowitz and Brock (1991) suggested larvae use Acacia constricta in southeast Arizona. Scott (1986) indicated larvae eat species of Cassia and Lysiloma. This butterfly cannot survive our winters. Flight. Our six records of Mimosa Yellows fall in June, July, September, October and November. Adults are found in low, wooded riparian situations below 6000’ elevation where they seek damp soil and nectar. Comments. In some books this butterfly is also known as Eurema nise 

Mimosa Yellow winter form (Pyrisitia nise) Last Chance Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains, Lincoln National Forest, Eddy Co., NM; October 10, 1998 (photo by Steve Cary).
Mimosa Yellow male summer form (Pyrisitia nise) El Chipinque, Nuevo Leon, Mexico; October 21, 2002 (Photo by Steve Cary).
Mimosa Yellow female (Pyrisitia nise) Rio Cauca, Colombia; July 28, 2019 (photo by Elaine Halbedel).


Pyrisitia proterpia (Fabricius)                    Tailed Orange

Description. Tailed Orange is radiant yellow orange above. A black stripe accentuates the dorsal forewing costa, and dorsal veins are delicately scaled in black. The ventral surface is dull yellow with nondescript brown markings designed to camouflage the insect when at rest. The summer form has a sharp angle at the hindwing tornus. The winter form gundlachia sports a more prominent tail but lacks black vein-edging on the upperside. Range and Habitat. This is a tropical and subtropical species distributed mostly in Central America, but it does breed northward along the Mexican coasts. Adults often wander farther north into the southwest US, where summer breeding takes place on a regular basis. In NM it is found mostly in our SW corner (counties: DA,Gr,Hi,Ot,Ro,Si,So). Life History. Legumes (Fabaceae) serve as larval hosts for this insect. Scott (1986) listed Prosopis reptans and Cassia texana for Texas. Bailowitz and Brock (1991) cited Cassia leptadenia in southeast AZ. Scott (1992) reported oviposition on honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) in southern Arizona and it would be an easy option in southern New Mexico. Flight. In New Mexico, peak numbers in August and September probably result from successful reproduction by early-season strays followed by a wet monsoon season. Extreme dates are July 4 and November 29. In late summer and fall, look for Tailed Oranges at wet spots in riparian canyons in southern New Mexico. Comments. The earliest known New Mexico record is a specimen at the Allyn Museum of Entomology from Redrock (Gr), on 8 October 1937. Some workers place this butterfly in the genus Eurema.

Tailed Orange summer form (Pyrisitisa proterpia) Cottonwood Canyon, Peloncillo Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; Sept. 21, 2008 (photo by Steve Cary).
Tailed Orange winter form (Pyrisitisa proterpia form gundlachia) Aguirre Springs Recreation Area, Dona Ana Co., NM; November 4, 2006 (photo by Steve Cary).
spider-killed Tailed Orange winter form (Pyrisitia proterpia form gundlachia) Frontera Audubon, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 19, 2003 (photo by Steve Cary).


Abaeis nicippe (Cramer)                              Sleepy Orange (updated March 23, 2021)

Description. Sleepy Orange has bright orange yellow uppersides with irregular black borders on both wings and a black spot in the forewing cell. The dorsal hindwing border is weak in females. Undersides display a mottled, dead-leaf yellow. Range and Habitat. Abaeis nicippe breeds from South America to the southern US, straying rarely to Canada. A regular member of our southern butterfly fauna, adults occasionally wander across the rest of New Mexico (all counties). Life History. Legumes (Fabaceae) are the preferred hosts. Females oviposited on twinleaf senna (Senna bauhinoides) near Santa Rosa (Gu) on May 30, 2003. Bailowitz and Brock (1991) cited use of Cassia leptocarpa, wislizenii and covesii in southeast Arizona. Flight. Sleepy Oranges fly any time of year on warm days in southern New Mexico, where records span January 1 to December 30, but favor summer and fall. Adults puddle at water holes on hot days and can hibernate – unusual among sulfurs. Comments. One day near Deming, crab spiders hidden in thistle flowers had killed a male and, 100 feet away, a female Sleepy Orange. Each victim’s wings were opened in death. The UV-reflective male died alone, but six live males frenetically, though unsuccessfully, courted the non-reflective, unresponsive female. This species is also called Eurema nicippe.

Sleepy Orange summer male (Abaeis nicippe) Sierra Grande, Union Co., NM; July 18, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).
Sleepy Orange winter form male (Abaeis nicippe) Aguirre Springs Recreation Area, Organ Mountains, Dona Ana Co., NM; November 4, 2010 (photo by Steve Cary).
Sleepy Orange winter female (Abaeis nicippe) Big Bend National Park, Brewster Co., TX; November 11, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).
Sleepy Orange dead winter male (Abaeis nicippe) Big Bend National Park, Brewster Co., TX; November 16, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).
Sleepy Oranges in copula (Abaeis nicippe) warm season form above and cold season form below; near La Llorona Park, Dona Ana Co., NM; October 9, 2019 (photo by Jim VonLoh).
Sleepy Orange puddle party (Abaeis nicippe) Big Bend National Park, Brewster Co., TX; November 16, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).


Abaeis boisduvaliana (C. Felder & R. Felder) Boisduval’s Yellow

Description. Boisduval’s is yellow above with black margins and a slight tail at the back of the hindwing. The irregular black margin runs from forewing apex to hindwing tornus on males. On females, the black is limited to the forewing apex and on the hindwing does reach the tornus. The warm season form is bright yellow, while the cool season morph has more brown marks on the underside, to resemble fallen autumn leaves. Range and Habitat. Abaeis boisduvaliana breeds in Central America, the Caribbean islands and north along both coasts of Mexico. Strays occasionally wander into New Mexico along our southern border (counties: DA,Ed,Hi,Lu,Ot). Life History. The only suggestion of breeding in New Mexico is the occasional appearance of fresh specimens. Bailowitz and Brock (1991) reported larval use of Cassia leptocarpa (Fabaceae) in southeast Arizona, but none will survive winter. Flight. Boisduval’s Yellow is multivoltine in the tropics. We have two flight peaks here: in June and September. Extreme dates are May 16 and September 8. Seek adults in low, moist, wooded riparian settings. Comments. Our first report was from the legendary Guadalupe Canyon, 4600′, Peloncillo Mountains (Hi), on 8 September 1984 (S. Cary).

Boisduval’s Yellow summer form (Abaeis boisduvaliana) Pine Canyon, Animas Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; September 6, 1992 (photo by Steve Cary).
Boisduval’s Yellow winter form (Abaeis boisduvaliana) Resaca De La Palma State Park, Cameron Co., TX; November 8, 2013 (photo by Bryan E. Reynolds).
Boisduval’s Yellow winter form (Abaeis boisduvaliana) Resaca De La Palma State Park, Cameron Co., TX; November 1, 2017 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).


Abaeis mexicana (Boisduval)                 Mexican Yellow

Description. Mexican Yellow is about the same size as Sleepy Orange, but is pale yellow above, with a distinctive black margin. The dorsal hindwing is bright yellow near the costa. There is a rudimentary tail at the hindwing tornus and a small black patch near the hindwing apex. Range and Habitat. Abaeis mexicana breeds from Colombia north through Mexico and into southern Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Adults stray from time to time into much of New Mexico (all counties except Cu,DB). Wanderers may breed during the warm season in northern New Mexico, far north of their core range. Usually found below 7000′, Mexican Yellow has been seen on Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain at 12,700’ (Ta)! Life History. Larval hosts are legumes (Fabaceae). Scott (1986) mentioned Cassia, Acacia and Robinia neomexicana. Bailowitz and Brock (1991) noted widespread use of Acacia angustissima by larvae in southeast Arizona. Flight. Our records begin March 6 and end December 26. Peak flight tends to coincide with the summer monsoon: July to September. Adults are fond of nectar and wet sand in desert canyons. Comments. This butterfly was dubbed the Wolf-Face Sulfur by Scott (1986) because the black dorsal forewing margin has a lobo-like profile.

Mexican Yellow (Abaeis mexicana) Geronimo Pass, Peloncillo Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; Sept. 21, 2008 (photo by Steve Cary).
Mexican Yellow (Abaeis mexicana) near Patagonia, Santa Cruz Co., AZ; September 4, 2012 (photo by Elaine Halbedel).


Abaeis salome (C. Felder & R. Felder)           Salome Yellow (updated March 18, 2021)

This subtropical species is a rare late summer stray to southwestern New Mexico. There is one modern sighting from southern Hidalgo County in September 1991. Salome was first officially attributed to New Mexico in “How to Know the Butterflies” by Paul and Anne Ehrlich (1961), but without substantiating data. As a consequence, it was only with qualifications included in subsequent New Mexico lists and summaries (e.g., Cary and Holland 1992[1994], Toliver et al. 2001). The specimen illustrated by the Ehrlichs was recently uncovered in the Snow Entomological Museum at the University of Kansas bearing the labels “New Mexico” and “August” (Cary and Holland 2002). The museum and those labels are consistent with capture by University of Kansas Professor Francis Huntington Snow in August 1884 in Little Walnut Canyon in Grant County north of Silver City. Paul Ehrlich took his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1957 where he had ready access to Snow’s historic specimens. Upon completing a dissertation entitled “The Morphology, Phylogeny and Higher Classification of the Butterflies,” that force of nature named Dr. Paul Ehrlich began several decades of international prominence in biology and conservation.

Salome Yellow (Abaeis salome) Lake Atitlan, Guatemala; November 15, 2019 (photo by Elaine Halbedel).
F. H. Snow’s specimen of Salome Yellow captured in August 1884 at Little Walnut Creek, Grant Co., NM. Specimen in Snow Entomological Museum, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS.


Colias scudderii Reakirt                      Scudder’s Sulphur (updated December 30, 2020)

Description. Scudder’s Sulphur resembles Clouded Sulphur, the widespread agricultural weed, but details and habitat distinguish them. Scudder’s has pink fringes and a greenish ventrum. Females are pale yellow-green above with ghosts of dark borders. Range and Habitat. Colias scudderii lives in arctic and subarctic North America, from Alaska to Ontario. Colonies occur in the Rockies south to northern New Mexico (counties: Co,Mo,RA,SM,SF,Ta). Look for it in damp areas near treeline, from 9,000 to 12,400′. Life History. Scrubby willows (Salicaceae), Ericaceae and marsh Polygonaceae are preferred hosts. For nominate Colias scudderii in Colorado, Scott (1992) cited oviposition on Salix planifolia, Salix reticulata nivalis, Vaccinium caespitosum, Vaccinium scoparium and Polygonum viviparum. Flight. Adult Scudder’s Sulphurs fly in New Mexico between July 1 and August 27. They are best found in high wet meadows near stands of the larval host. Comments. New Mexico populations are assigned by some (e.g., Ferris and Brown 1980) to subspecies Colias scudderii ruckesi Klots, a taxon described from specimens collected in Winsor Canyon west of Cowles (SM or SF) on 2 July 1935 and 4 July 1936. This name perhaps should take a back seat to Colias scudderii flavotincta Cockerell, which described from the same general area much earlier (Cockerell 1901).

Scudder’s Sulphur male (Colias scudderii ruckesi) Jarocito Creek, Sangre de Crusto Mountains, Colfax Co., NM; July 21, 1999 (photo by Steve Cary).
Scudder’s Sulphur male (Colias scudderii ruckesi) Hopewell Lake, Rio Arriba Co., NM; July 14, 2020 (photo by Steve Cary).
Scudder’s Sulphur female (Colias scudderii ruckesi) Hopewell Lake, Rio Arriba Co., NM; July 28, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).


Colias meadii W. H. Edwards                 Mead’s Sulphur (updated July 28, 2021)

Description. Dorsally, Mead’s Sulphur is almost pumpkin orange. Its distinctively pink-edged, greenish-gray underside provides excellent camouflage in its moist tundra habitat. Females are darker orange above and darker gray below than are males. Albinic females, which are routine in many sulphur species, are quite unusual for Mead’s Sulphur. Range and Habitat. This arctic/alpine butterfly lives in scattered populations in the higher Rockies from British Columbia south to north-central New Mexico (counties: Co,Ta). In our state it is occupies the highest meadows above treeline. While it has been found as low as 10,000′ elevation as well as on tundra ridges, it is most often found above 11,500′ in moist meadows. Life History. Clovers (Fabaceae) such as Trifolium dasyphyllum, T. nanum and T. parryi are eaten by caterpillars in Colorado (Scott 1992) and probably here, too. Colias meadii is biennial; two warm seasons are needed before larvae pupate. Flight. New Mexico records span June 30 to August 30, peaking in July. Adults come to nectar. When disturbed or when clouds cover the sun, adults fly to the ground and disappear among the low, green vegetation. Comments. Richard Holland was the first to document Colias meadii in New Mexico: 2 miles east of Twining, 10,000′ (Ta) on 30 August 1964, in what I think was his first year in New Mexico.

Female Mead’s Sulphur (Colias meadii) Gold Hill, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Carson National Forest, Taos Co., NM; August 16, 2001 (photo by Steve Cary).
Female Mead’s Sulphur (Colias meadii) Uppermost Latir Lake, Latir Peaks, Taos Co., NM; July 26, 2021 (photo by Bob Friedrichs).
Male Mead’s Sulphur (Colias meadii) Uppermost Latir Lake, Latir Peaks, Taos Co., NM; July 26, 2021 (photo by Steve Cary).


Colias alexandra W. H. Edwards  Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur (updated December 30, 2020)

Description. This elegant species is our largest member of the genus Colias. It is pale gray-green below and lemon yellow above. Narrow black dorsal borders above are dark in males and weak or absent in females. Range and Habitat. Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur is a species of the western North American cordillera. It occurs from Alaska south to Arizona and New Mexico, and from the Sierra Nevada eastward into the western Great Plains. It lives in Transition and Canadian Zone forests in our higher mountains (counties: Ca,Co,Gr,LA,MK?,Mo,RA,Sv,SM,SF,Si,Ta,To,Un), usually 7,000 – 11,000′ elevation. Life History. Herbaceous legumes (Fabaceae) are hosts throughout its range. Larval hosts in New Mexico include Thermopsis spp. (e.g., T. divaricarpa) and Astragalus spp. (e.g., A. adsurgens). Larvae overwinter. Flight. Colias alexandra is univoltine with adults in flight here between May 19 and August 20; peak numbers are seen in July. Adults nectar in alpine meadows, but are difficult to approach. Comments. Southwestern New Mexico (counties: Ca,Gr,Si,To) has subspecies Colias alexandra apache Ferris. The nominate subspecies prevails elsewhere in New Mexico. The McKinley County report is an old John Woodgate specimen with a Fort Wingate label. Given what we know about other specimens with that history, a McKinley County provenance cannot be assumed. Confirmation is needed.

Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur male (Colias alexandra) Pajarito Ski Area, Los Alamos Co., NM; July 1, 2020 (photo by Marc Bailey).
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur male (Colias alexandra) Chapman Lake Campground, White River National Forest, Pitkin Co., CO; July 4, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur backlit male (Colias alexandra) San Pedro Parks Wilderness, Rio Arriba Co., NM; July 8, 2004 (photo by Steve Cary).
backlit female Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur (Colias alexandra) Holy Ghost Canyon, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe National Forest, San Miguel Co., NM; July 19, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).


Colias philodice Godart                               Clouded Sulphur

Description. Like all Colias species, the Clouded Sulfur is yellowish with black dorsal borders and of medium size. Ventral wing surfaces may be grayish to greenish yellow for camouflage, but the dorsal surface is bright, sulfurous yellow. In females, the dorsal black border is invaded by yellow patches, as with other Colias species. Males do not reflect ultraviolet light. Albinic females, having a very pale green-white hue, occur regularly. Range and Habitat. Colias philodice occurs across most of temperate and subarctic North America, where it inhabits disturbed, open, often agricultural areas. It is known throughout New Mexico (all counties), but it is rarely encountered in large numbers. Its altitudinal range here is 3000 – 10,000′. Life History. A variety of weedy legumes (Fabaceae), such as alfalfa (Medicago sativa), serve as larval hosts. Abundance of some hosts may lead to locally abundant Clouded Sulphurs. Hundreds were seen on 9 October 1994 near Dexter (Ch) by S. Cary. Flight. Adults feed on flower nectar (e.g., Aster). Several generations are completed annually in favorable areas. Reproduction begins in spring and numbers increase until cold autumn/winter weather shuts it down. Records extend from March 24 through December 26. Adults may be found in any month when the weather is warm, especially in agricultural areas. Comments. Scott (1986) suggested that this species may be extending its range into Arizona and California. A specimen taken at NMSU, Las Cruces (DA) on June 1961 is New Mexico’s oldest record. This suggests that Colias philodice is a recent arrival in New Mexico and supports Scott’s hypothesis.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) Humphreys Wildlife Management Area, Rio Arriba Co., NM; July 23, 2008 (photo by Steve Cary).
Male Clouded Sulphur, left, courts an unreceptive female, right (Colias philodice) Idaho Falls, ID; September 14, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).
Albinic female Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) or Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) Gallinas Canyon, San Miguel Co., NM; July 14, 2010 (photo by Steve Cary).


Colias eurytheme Boisduval                          Orange Sulphur (updated March 23, 2021)

Description. This sister species of Clouded Sulphur has identical size and shape. The differences are the powdery orange-yellow dorsal ground color and the male reflectance of ultraviolet light. Albinic females occur regularly. Range and Habitat. Colias eurytheme occurs throughout temperate North America and Mexico. It is a common and widespread butterfly in New Mexico (all counties) which is now at home in habitats from desert to tundra. Life History. Orange Sulphurs breed successfully on native, exotic and agricultural leguminous (Fabaceae) hosts. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a common weed and crop in New Mexico, hence abundant Orange Sulphurs. Oviposition also has been reported in New Mexico on Medicago lupulina and Vicia exigua (Scott 1992). Eggs were laid on Vicia americana on Glorieta Baldy (SF) on 12 July 1997. Flight. Colias eurytheme completes as many generations in a year as conditions allow. New Mexico records span January 3 to December 26, indicating it can be found any time of year if weather permits. Adults come to nectar and may congregate in numbers at mud puddles. Comments. Colias philodice and Colias eurytheme are very closely related, sharing hosts and mate-locating behaviors. Different UV reflectances deter interspecific mating, but hybridization still occurs and some offspring are fertile. Hybrids have some orange scales and intermediate UV reflectance. Unlike Colias philodice, Colias eurytheme was already part of the western fauna in the 1870s (Mead 1875).

Orange Sulphur male (Colias eurytheme) Los Alamos, Los Alamos Co., NM; July 30, 2019 (photo by Marc Bailey).
Orange Sulphur male (Colias eurytheme) near Cloudcroft, Sacramento Mountains, Otero Co., NM; July 8, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).
Orange Sulphur female (Colias eurytheme) near Portales, Roosevelt Co., NM; June 20, 2015 (photo by James Lofton).
Orange Sulphur female (Colias eurytheme) Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro Co., NM; July 12, 2017 (photo by Steve Cary).
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) male above, albinic female below; near Fairacres, Dona Ana Co., NM; August 5, 2019 (photo by Jim VonLoh).


Zerene cesonia (Stoll)                          Southern Dogface (updated January 29, 2021)

Description. Southern Dogface is easily recognized by its bright yellow color and black dorsal forewing margin that forms a silhouette of the head of a dog, which even has a black circle for an eye. Does that deter predators? The forewing is pointed or gently hooked. Range and Habitat. Southern Dogface is native to the American tropics and subtropics, breeding from Argentina to the southern US. It strays widely and has been recorded as far north as Canada. In New Mexico it has been reported from all counties, but it is common only along our southern border and below 7000 feet elevation; it is an occasional stray farther north. Life History. A variety of legumes (Fabaceae) are larval host plants. Fresh specimens can be found throughout the warm season across southern New Mexico, suggesting at least seasonal reproduction. Flight. New Mexico records span January 26 to December 1, indicating multiple overlapping generations. Adults are found on most warm season days in southern New Mexico, but only May to August in northern New Mexico. Adults are avid nectar feeders (e.g., Asclepias species) and are popular at puddle parties. Comments. Spring and autumn individuals may have wing edges colorfully accentuated with pink (form rosa). In case you were wondering, there is no ‘Northern Dogface’.

Southern Dogface male (Zerene cesonia) Big Bend National Park, Brewster Co., TX; November 12, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).
Southern Dogface male (Zerene cesonia) Lincoln National Forest, Guadalupe Mountains, Eddy Co., NM; Oct. 10, 1998 (photo by Steve Cary).
Southern Dogface male (Zerene cesonia) San Andres Mountains, Dona Ana Co., NM; Sept. 14, 2006 (photo by Steve Cary).
Southern Dogface freshly emerged female (Zerene cesonia) Mission, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 20, 2002 (photo by Steve Cary).
Southern Dogface female (Zerene cesonia) near Portales, Roosevelt Co., NM; June 20, 2015 (photo by James Lofton).
Southern Dogface female (Zerene cesonia) Los Alamos, Los Alamos Co., NM; March 28, 2015 (photo by Selvi Viswanathan).
Southern Dogface puddle party (Zerene cesonia) San Andres Mountains, Dona Ana Co., NM; Sept. 15, 2006 (photo by Steve Cary).


Anteos clorinde (Godart)                   White Angled-Sulphur (updated March 18, 2021)

Our two Angled-Sulphurs (Anteos species) are our largest pierids. Anteos clorinde is whitish above with orange patches at the forewing costa. Ventral colors are pale greenish and vaguely leaflike. The forewing apex is hooked and the hindwing has a short tail. The wing margin’s various swoops, angles, points and corners give rise to its common name. White Angled-Sulphurs breed in the Neotropics, perhaps as far north as western Mexico. Here in New Mexico it is encountered only as an infrequent stray (counties: Be,Co,Gr,Hi,Lu,Ot,SM,Si,So). Larval hosts are shrubby legumes (Fabaceae) such as various Cassia species. There is no convincing evidence that this butterfly reproduces anywhere in the US. Adults fly fast, high and erratically, posing challenges for capture, photography or identification. Your best chance for any of those goals is when they stop to nectar, bending flower heads with their weight. The superb photo below is a prime example of being prepared and seizing that moment. There are sight reports for July, but substantiated records run from August 8 to October 26. Our first and most surprising record came from J. R. Merritt, who caught one at Yankee, 5 miles east of Raton (Co), on 1 September 1934.

White Angled-Sulphur (Anteos clorinde) Emory Pass, Black Range, Grant & Sierra counties, NM; August 8, 2011 (photo by Bob Sivinski).
White Angled-Sulphur (Anteos clorinde) Deer Creek, Animas Mountains, Hidalgo Co., NM; August 21, 1993 (photo courtesy C. P. Gillette Museum of Athropod Diversity, Colorado State University; specimen collected by S. J. Cary).


Anteos maerula (Fabricius)       Yellow Angled-Sulphur (updated February 22, 2021)

Anteos maerula is the yellow sister species to Anteos clorinde. It is otherwise nearly identical, lacking only the bright orange dorsal forewing patch. Like its congener, each of the four wings has a single dark cell spot. Yellow Angled-Sulphur is neotropical, but strays occasionally do reach the US. In New Mexico it is quite rare (counties: Hi). Woody legumes (Fabaceae) are larval hosts in its Neotropical breeding grounds, but there is no evidence of reproduction in the US. New Mexico records are few, running from July 20 to August 3, synchronous with our usual summer thunderstorm season and probably capitalizing on its southerly flow of air. Adults may be more common here than reports suggest, but their high, rapid flight and resemblance (when in rapid flight) to other large sulphurs makes them difficult to identify confidently from a distance.

Yellow Angled-Sulphur (Anteos maerula) Bentsen RV Park, Mission, TX; July 28, 2019 (photo by Bill Beck).
Yellow Angled-Sulphur (Anteos maerula) Lower Rio Grande Valley, Hidalgo Co., TX; November 20, 2013 (photo by Joe Schelling).
Yellow Angled-Sulphur (Anteos maerula) Bentsen RV Park, Mission, TX; July 28, 2019 (photo by Bill Beck).


Phoebis sennae (Linnaeus)                        Cloudless Sulphur (updated January 29, 2021)

Description. Phoebis sennae gets the moniker “cloudless” because there are no black margins and few other marks to mar its sulfur-yellow wing surfaces. Cloudless Sulphur is larger than most sulphurs, but not as large as the Angled-Sulphurs. Females have small dark marks along the wing margins. Forewing apices are rounded, not hooked. Range and Habitat. Cloudless Sulphur is a tropical and subtropical species that breeds from South America to the southern border of the US. Its large size, several annual broods and confident flight make it a common stray farther north. In New Mexico it is fairly regular in the south, although it may be scarce for years at a time; it is only an occasional stray in northern New Mexico (all counties but Ci,Ha,LA,Mo,RA,SJ). Life History. Shrubby legumes (Fabaceae) are hosts. The genus Cassia was noted by Scott (1986) and Bailowitz and Brock (1991). Come summer, Phoebis sennae can breed in New Mexico, too, using at least Senna species (hence the species epithet) in Socorro County (J. Schelling & R. Gracey 2018). Flight. New Mexico records extend from March 22 to November 26. Peak numbers are in April and August, suggesting at least two annual broods in our region. Adults are fond of wet sand and flower nectar. Comments. Albinic white females (form browni) sometimes outnumber the normal yellow version.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) Cave Creek Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains, Coronado National Forest, Cochise Co., AZ; October 10, 1982 (photo by Steve Cary).
Cloudless Sulphur winter female (Phoebis sennae) Big Bend National Park, Brewster Co., TX; November 13, 2018 (photo by Steve Cary).
Cloudless Sulphur albinic female (Phoebis sennae) Black Range, Grant Co., NM; August 5, 2007 (photo by Steve Cary).
Cloudless Sulphur female, injured (Phoebis sennae) Chiricahua Mountains, Coronado National Forest, Cochise Co., AZ; Sept. 4, 1983 (photo by Steve Cary).
Cloudless Sulphur summer male (Phoebis sennae) Los Alamos, Los Alamos Co., NM; July 16, 2015 (photo by Selvi Viswanathan).
Cloudless Sulphur summer male (Phoebis sennae) Pontotoc Ridge Preserve, Pontotoc Co., OK; August 24, 2013 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Cloudless Sulphur puddle club (Phoebis sennae) Dona Ana Co., NM; October 4, 2006 (photo by David Anderson).


Phoebis philea (Linnaeus)               Orange-Barred Sulphur (updated December 27, 2020)

Like all Phoebis species, Orange-Barred Sulphur is large and mostly yellow. Orange bars cross the dorsal forewing cell and dorsal hindwing posterior margins. Males are otherwise weakly marked. Females have dark marks ventrally and along the margins, with red suffusion near hindwing margins. Neotropical regions are home to this butterfly. Its northernmost breeding areas are the Caribbean islands and south Florida. Like its close relatives, it wanders regularly into other areas and occasionally into southern New Mexico (counties: DA,Gr,Hi,Ot,Va). Woody legumes (Fabaceae), such as Cassia species, are hosts for larvae. Phoebis philea has been found to breed occasionally in southeast Arizona. There is no direct evidence of reproduction in our state, but Bob Barber’s photo below of an immaculate female at least suggests local reproduction in southern New Mexico. Our few records span April 17 to August 13 to November 4, suggesting sparse, broods in spring, summer and autumn. Adults are most likely to be encountered during the monsoon influx from Mexico, when they enjoy nectar and moist earth. Our first report of Orange-Bared Sulphur is from near High Rolls, 6400′ (Ot), 13 July 1975 (Richard Holland). The first photo below was taken by Bob Barber, a superb naturalist and superb photographer who lived in Alamogordo and, sadly, is no longer with us.

Orange-Barred Sulphur female (Phoebis philea) Alamogordo, Otero Co., NM; October 25, 2006 (photo by Bob Barber).
Orange-barred Sulphur male (Phoebis philea) Resaca De La Palma State Park, Cameron Co., TX; October 31, 2014 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).


Phoebis agarithe (Boisduval)           Large Orange Sulphur (updated March 18, 2021)

Description. The Large Orange Sulphur is nearly uniform tangerine or apricot orange above and below in males. Females are more heavily marked, like other females in this genus, but albinos are known. The ventral forewing has a diagnostic straight postmedian line of brownish striations. Range and Habitat. This tropical species breeds from Brazil north to western Mexico, south TX and south Florida. Occasional strays are observed in southern New Mexico (counties: Ca,Cu,DA,Ed,Gr,Ha,Hi,Le,Ot). Look for them in riparian canyons and other desert oases, usually below 5500′ elevation. Life History. Shrubby legumes (Fabaceae) are the larval hosts. In breeding grounds closest to New Mexico, Scott (1986) reported that Pithecellobium species, Cassia species and Inga species are preferred. Lysiloma microphylla is used in southern Arizona (Bailowitz and Brock 1991). There is no evidence of reproduction in New Mexico, but it is not out of the question. Flight. Most records of adults here are from the August rainy season. Early and late records are June 18 and November 22. This butterfly is very fond of nectar, such as thistles (Cirsium species). Comments. After Phoebis sennae, this is our most frequently seen Phoebis species. Our first report was from Skeleton Canyon, Peloncillo Mountains, 15 August 1966.

Large Orange Sulphur summer male (Phoebis agarithe) Broad Canyon Ranch, Dona Ana Co., NM; August 19, 2011 (photo by Steve Cary).
Large Orange Sulphur winter male (Phoebis agarithe) Frontera Audubon, Hidalgo Co., TX November 4, 2013 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Large Orange Sulphur male in spider web (Phoebis agarithe) Nuevo Leon, Mexico; October 22, 2002 (photo by Steve Cary).
Large Orange Sulphur female (Phoebis agarithe) Falcon State Park, Starr Co., TX October 27, 2014 (photo by Bryan Reynolds).
Large Orange Sulphur winter female (Phoebis agarithe) Mission, Hidalgo Co., TX; October 20, 2002 (photo by Steve Cary).
Large Orange Sulphur albinic female (Phoebis agarithe) McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Culberson Co., TX; August 28, 1983 (photo by Steve Cary).