Clouded Yellow

Colias croceus (KO-lee-uss KROH-see-uss)

Clouded Yellow. 25/09/2009. Beachy Head, Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
 

Wingspan
Male: 52 - 58mm
Female: 54 - 62mm

Checklist Number
58.010

Family:PieridaeSwainson, 1820
Subfamily:ColiadinaeSwainson, 1820
Tribe:ColiadiniSwainson, 1827
Genus:ColiasFabricius, 1807
Subgenus:  
Species:croceus(Geoffroy, 1785)
Subspecies:croceus(Geoffroy, 1785)
Form:helice Hübner, 1779
 croceus (Geoffroy, 1785)

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Introduction

The Clouded Yellow is primarily an immigrant to the UK, originating from north Africa and southern Europe, with numbers varying greatly from year to year - an estimated 36,000 butterflies appearing in one of the infrequent "Clouded Yellow" years in 1947. In more recent years, it has been shown that this species has successfully overwintered in the south of England. However, it is believed that the majority of individuals perish, since both larva and pupa of this continuously-brooded species are easily killed by damp and frost. In good years this species can produce up to 3 generations in the UK. In flight, this species is often mistaken for one of the commoner "whites", but the orange-yellow colour is quite distinctive, even in flight, and unlike any other species. The Clouded Yellow has a distribution befitting a highly-migratory species, and can be found anywhere in the British Isles. Many immigrants remain near the coast where they feed, mate, and lay eggs. Others disperse inland and this species is found in both Scotland and Ireland in good years.

Colias croceus ssp. croceus f. helice

This form was first defined in Hübner (1779) as shown here and as shown in this plate (type locality: Not stated).

The form helice occurs in the female, where the individual is a creamy white, rather than yellow, in colour.

Male

Male Underside

Clouded Yellow - Female - F. Helice - Somerset - 06/08/13

Female
Photo © William

Clouded Yellow f.helice - Gillingham, Kent 10-Aug-2013

Female Underside
Photo © Testudo Man

Photo Album ...


Colias croceus ssp. croceus f. croceus

This species was first defined in Geoffroy (1785) as shown here (type locality: Paris, France).

Both forms of this species are found throughout the British Isles.

Clouded Yellow male, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 9 Aug 2013

Male
Photo © Colin Knight

Clouded-Yellow- 5D33451 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013

Male Underside
Photo © IainLeach

Clouded Yellow female, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 8 Aug 2013

Female
Photo © Colin Knight

Clouded Yellow, female, Hayling Billy Trail, 13/08/2013

Female Underside
Photo © Pauline

Photo Album ...


History

The table below shows a chronology of vernacular names attributed to this species. Any qualification of the name (e.g. male, female) is shown in brackets after the name.

YearNameReference
1703Saffron Butterfly (male)Petiver (1702-1706)
1717Spotted Saffron Butterfly (female)Petiver (1717)
1742Clouded YellowWilkes (1742)
1795Clouded OrangeLewin (1795)
1832Clouded SaffronRennie (1832)
1913Spotted Saffron ButterflyNewman & Leeds (1913)
1959Common Clouded YellowHeslop (1959)

Conservation Status

The Clouded Yellow is one of the most-widespread species in Europe and is not a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusOccurrence Change
1976-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
1976-2014 (%)
Occurrence Change
2005-2014 (%)
Abundance Change
2005-2014 (%)
Not Listed
Large Increase+84
Large Increase+734
Decrease-19
Large Decrease-57

The table above shows the occurrence (distribution) and abundance (population) trends, using information from The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015 (Fox, 2015). Any UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

This butterfly can be found in just about any open habitat in the countryside, including coastal cliffs, open downland, and fields containing the larval foodplants of Clovers, Lucerne and Bird's-foot Trefoil.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid.

Life Cycle

The first immigrants of this species start to arrive to our shores in late May or early June, with much larger numbers appearing in July and August, as the offspring of the first arrivals mingle with new immigrants.

Colias croceus ssp. croceus f. croceus

The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Imago

This strong-flying butterfly always settles with its wings closed and so the dark borders on the uppersides of the wings are only visible when in flight. There is no elaborate courtship and, having mated, the female is subsequently able to lay an extraordinary number of eggs - up to 600 have been recorded from a single female.

Adults feed primarily on Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.), Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) and Vetches (Vicia spp.).

Colias croceus ssp. croceus f. helice

Clouded Yellow (f.helice) - Kimmeridge coast, Dorset 28-Sept-2014

Photo © ronniethepoo

Clouded Yellow - imago - Swanwick - 30-Jul-05 [Andy Collins]

Photo © Andy Collins

Helice, Oxenbourne Down, 29/07/2014

Photo © Pauline
29-Jul-2014

Lavernock Point Nr Penarth South Wales 6-Oct-2013

Photo © New Era51

Clouded Yellow f.helice, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 8 August 2013

Photo © Colin Knight
08-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow f.helice - Gillingham, Kent 10-Aug-2013

Photo © Testudo Man

Clouded Yellow - female form - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow - female form - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13-5

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow - Female - F. Helice - Somerset 06/08/13

Photo © William
06-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow - female form - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow ssp. croceus f. helice 23-Oct-2013

Photo © dave_b_james

Clouded Yellow - female form - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13-6

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow - imago - Lake Kerkini, Greece - 08-Jun-09 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
08-Jun-2009

female Clouded Yellow Lavernock Point 6-Oct-2013

Photo © New Era51

Clouded Yellow helice

Photo © dave_b_james

Clouded Yellow Lavernock point Nr  Penarth South Wales 6-Oct-2013

Photo © New Era51

Clouded Yellow - imago - Sarnano, Italy - 17-Jun-08 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2008

Clouded Yellow Female (f.helice) - Birling Gap, Sussex 28-Sept-09

Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Sep-2009

Clouded Yellow f.helice  Birling Gap, Sussex  25th September 2009

Photo © millerd
25-Sep-2009

Clouded yellow 2 ukB

Photo © New Era51
Taken at Lavernock point Nr

Photo Album (30 photos) ...


Colias croceus ssp. croceus f. croceus

Clouded-Yellow- 5D32713 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Clouded Yellow, male - Mill Hill, West Sussex - 12.9.2010 [Colin Knight] 7

Photo © Colin Knight
12-Sep-2010

Freshly emerged and drying its wings, with empty pupa (bottom left). Southbourne, Bournemouth. 15 Apr 2007.

Photo © Mikhail

Clouded Yellow male, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 9 Aug 2013

Photo © Colin Knight
09-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow Female, Birling Gap, Sussex 4-Sept-07

Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Sep-2007

Clouded-Yellow- 5D32334 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Clouded Yellow - Alners Gorse - 22-08-2013

Photo © Wurzel
22-Aug-2013

Clouded-Yellow- 5D32003 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Clouded Yellow, Amberley, 6 September, 2007

Photo © Neil Hulme
06-Sep-2007

Clouded Yellow Male - Birling Gap, Sussex 1-Oct-09

Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Oct-2009

Clouded Yellow - Cissbury, Sussex 18-Oct-2011

Photo © Neil Hulme
18-Oct-2011

Freshly emerged and drying its wings, with empty pupa nearby.  Warren Edge car park, Southbourne. 13 Apr 2014.

Photo © Mikhail

Clouded Yellow male, Hayling Island, Hampshire, 19 Aug 2013

Photo © Colin Knight
19-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow, female, 06/06/2014, Selbourne

Photo © Pauline
06-Jun-2014

Clouded Yellow pair, Beachy Head 27th Sept 2009

Photo © NickB
27-Sep-2009

Clouded Yellow (m) close-up Birling Gap, Sussex  25th September 2009

Photo © millerd
25-Sep-2009

Clouded-Yellow- 5D31009 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Clouded Yellow - Alners Gorse - 22-08-2013

Photo © Wurzel
22-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow, female, Hayling Billy Trail, 13/08/2013

Photo © Pauline
13-Aug-2013

Clouded-Yellow- 5D33451 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013

Photo © IainLeach

Photo Album (57 photos) ...


Ovum

The skittle-shaped eggs are laid singly on the upperside of leaves of the foodplant. They are pale yellow when first laid, turning orange prior to hatching, and hatch in about a week.

Clouded Yellow ovum, Menorca

Photo © NickMorgan

Clouded Yellow - ovum - Portugal - 13-Sep-06 [Colin Baker]

Photo © Colin Baker

Clouded Yellow eggs - Rhone Valley, Switzerland 20-Oct-2012 Photographed within minutes of being laid

Photo © Padfield
20-Oct-2012

Clouded Yellow - ovum - Thatcham - 17-Jul-12 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Newly laid Clouded Yellow ova. 15/8/2013. Newhaven. Sussex.

Photo © badgerbob
15-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow - ovum - Martin Down - 19-08-2013

Photo © Wurzel

Clouded Yellow - ovum - Chiddingfold - 15-Aug-13

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow - ovum - Chiddingfold - 15-Aug-13-2

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Aug-2013

Clouded Yellow ovum 15-May-2016

Photo © Tony Moore
15-May-2016

Photo Album (9 photos) ...


Larva

The rate of growth of the larva is greatly dependent on conditions, especially temperature. The duration of this stage is therefore highly variable, ranging from 3 to 6 weeks. There are 4 moults in total.

The primary larval foodplants are Clovers (various) (Trifolium spp.) and Lucerne (Medicago sativa). Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is also used.

1st Instar

Description to be completed.

Clouded Yellow 1st instar larva. Bournemouth 12.Oct 06

Photo © Mikhail

1st instar larva. Southbourne, Bournemouth. 12 Dec 2013

Photo © Mikhail

Photo Album (2 photos) ...


2nd Instar

Description to be completed.

3rd Instar

Description to be completed.

4th Instar

Description to be completed.

5th Instar

Description to be completed.

Clouded Yellow - larva - Thatcham - 02-Nov-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Nov-2007

Clouded Yellow - larva - Thatcham - 02-Nov-07 (2) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Nov-2007

Clouded Yellow - larva - Thatcham - 26-Oct-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
26-Oct-2007

Clouded Yellow - larva - Thatcham - 31-Oct-07 (1224) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
31-Oct-2007

Clouded Yellow - larva - Thatcham - 31-Oct-07 (1225) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
31-Oct-2007

Clouded Yellow - larva - Thatcham - 31-Oct-07 (1226) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
31-Oct-2007

Photo Album (6 photos) ...


Pupa

The pupa is attached to a foodplant stem by a silk girdle and the cremaster. This stage lasts 2 or 3 weeks.

Clouded Yellow pupa. Bournemouth 6 Jul 01

Photo © Mikhail

Clouded Yellow - pupa - Thatcham - 06-Nov-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Nov-2007

Clouded Yellow - pupa - Thatcham - 25-Nov-07 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Nov-2007

Clouded Yellow - pupa - Thatcham - 25-Nov-07 (2) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Nov-2007

Clouded Yellow - pupa - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Adrian Dexter]

Photo © Adrian Dexter

Clouded Yellow - pupa - Thatcham - 31-Aug-12 (1) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles

Clouded Yellow pupa (reared) 11-June-2016

Photo © Tony Moore
11-Jun-2016

Clouded Yellow pupa (pre-eclosion) 1-July-2016 (Reared)

Photo © Tony Moore
01-Jul-2016

Photo Album (8 photos) ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

Berger's Clouded Yellow

Of the three species of Clouded Yellow found in the British Isles, the Clouded Yellow is both the commonest and the easiest to identify. When in flight, the orange appearance of the Clouded Yellow is unlike any other British butterfly. When settled, the lemon-coloured underside of the Clouded Yellow allows us to distinguish this species from Berger's Clouded Yellow which has a much paler underside. This diagnostic holds true even in the helice form of female Clouded Yellow where the orange colouring is replaced by a creamy white.


1. Clouded Yellow 2. Clouded Yellow (f. helice)
3. Berger's Clouded Yellow (male) 4. Berger's Clouded Yellow (female)

Pale Clouded Yellow

Of the three species of Clouded Yellow found in the British Isles, the Clouded Yellow is both the commonest and the easiest to identify. When in flight, the orange appearance of the Clouded Yellow is unlike any other British butterfly. When settled, the lemon-coloured underside of the Clouded Yellow allows us to distinguish this species from Pale Clouded Yellow which has a much paler underside. This diagnostic holds true even in the helice form of female Clouded Yellow where the orange colouring is replaced by a creamy white.


1. Clouded Yellow 2. Clouded Yellow (f. helice)
3. Pale Clouded Yellow (male) 4. Pale Clouded Yellow (female)

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Fabricius (1807) Fabricius, J.C. (1807) Magazin für Insektenkunde, herausgegeben von Karl Illiger.
Geoffroy (1785) Geoffroy, E.L. (1785) Entomologia Parisiensis.
Hübner (1779) Hübner, J. (1779) Sammlung europäischer Schmetterlinge.
Heslop (1959) Hislop, I.R.P. (1959) A new label list of British macrolepidoptera. Entomologist's Gazette.
Newman & Leeds (1913) Newman, L.W. and Leeds, H.A. (1913) Text Book of British Butterflies and Moths.
Petiver (1702-1706) Petiver, J. (1702-1706) Gazophylacii naturae et artis decas prima.
Petiver (1717) Petiver, J. (1717) Papilionum Britanniae Icones.
Rennie (1832) Rennie, J. (1832) A conspectus of the butterflies and moths found in Britain, with their English and systematic names, times of appearances, sizes, colours, their caterpillars, and various localities.
Swainson (1820) Swainson, W. (1820) Zoological illustrations, or Original figures and descriptions of new, rare, or interesting animals : selected chiefly from the classes of ornithology, entomology, and conchology, and arranged on the principles of Cuvier and other modern zoologists (Vol.1).
Swainson (1827) Swainson, W. (1827) A Sketch of the Natural Affinities of the Lepidoptera Diurna of Latreille. The Philosophical magazine : or Annals of chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, natural history and general science.
Wilkes (1742) Wilkes, B. (1742) Twelve New Designs of English Butterflies.