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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Clouded Yellow. 25/09/2009. Beachy Head, Sussex.
Wingspan
Male: 52 - 58mm
Female: 54 - 62mm
Photo © badgerbob
Clouded Yellow

Colias croceus
KO-lee-uss
KROH-see-uss
Number: 58.010
B&F No.: 1545
Family:Pieridae (Duponchel, 1835)
Subfamily:Coliadinae (Swainson, 1827)
Tribe:Coliadini (Swainson, 1827)
Genus:Colias (Fabricius, 1807)
Subgenus: 
Species:croceus (Geoffroy, 1785)
Subspecies: croceus (Geoffroy, 1785)
Form:croceus (Geoffroy, 1785)
 helice (Hübner, 1779)
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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. 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

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

  Phenology  

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.


  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.

  Larval Foodplants  

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

  Nectar Sources  

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.).

  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.

Colias croceus ssp. croceus f. croceus


Clouded Yellow pair, Beachy Head 27th Sept 2009
Photo © NickB
27-Sep-2009
Clouded Yellow Pair - Birling Gap, Sussex 1-Oct-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Oct-2009
Clouded Yellow Female - Birling Gap, Sussex 1-Oct-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Oct-2009
Clouded Yellow Male - Birling Gap, Sussex 1-Oct-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Oct-2009
Clouded Yellow, Amberley, 6 September, 2007
Photo © Neil Hulme
06-Sep-2007
Clouded Yellow, male - Mill Hill, West Sussex - 12.9.2010 [Colin Knight] 3
Photo © Colin Knight
12-Sep-2010
Clouded Yellow, male - Mill Hill, West Sussex - 12.9.2010 [Colin Knight] 4
Photo © Colin Knight
Clouded Yellow pair - Sora, Slovenia September 2012
Photo © Simon2
22-Sep-2012
Clouded Yellow (m) Birling Gap, Sussex  25th September 2009
Photo © millerd
25-Sep-2009
Clouded Yellow (mating pair) Birling Gap, Sussex  25th September 2009
Photo © millerd
25-Sep-2009
Clouded Yellow. 25/09/2009. Beachy Head, Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
25-Sep-2009
Clouded Yellow - Cissbury, Sussex 18-Oct-2011
Photo © Neil Hulme
18-Oct-2011
Clouded Yellow male - Birling Gap, Sussex 1-Oct-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Oct-2009
Clouded Yellow, female, Hayling Billy Trail, 13/08/2013
Photo © Pauline
13-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow, female, Bramshot Common, 21/06/2013
Photo © Pauline
21-Jun-2013
Clouded Yellow female - Lydden Nature Reserve, Kent 2-Aug-2013
Photo © Hoggers
02-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow female, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 8 Aug 2013
Photo © Colin Knight
08-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow male, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 9 Aug 2013 (2)
Photo © Colin Knight
09-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow male, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 9 Aug 2013
Photo © Colin Knight
09-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow Male and female, Sulby Reservoir, Northamptonshire. 8th Aug 2013
Photo © m1ke
Clouded Yellow, female, Hayling Billy Trail, 13/08/2013
Photo © Pauline
13-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow male, Hayling Island, Hampshire, 19 Aug 2013
Photo © Colin Knight
19-Aug-2013
Clouded-Yellow- 5D32186 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Clouded-Yellow- 5D33112 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Clouded-Yellow- 5D33451 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Clouded-Yellow- 5D34938 Chambers, Lincs 19 Aug 2013
Photo © IainLeach
Clouded Yellow female - Rowland Wood, Sussex 14-Aug-2013
Photo © Butterflysaurus rex
14-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow - Alners Gorse - 22-08-2013
Photo © Wurzel
22-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow - Alners Gorse - 22-08-2013
Photo © Wurzel
22-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow - Alners Gorse - 22-08-2013
Photo © Wurzel
22-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow - Close up - Alners Gorse - 22-08-2013
Photo © Wurzel
22-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow female - Hamstreet, Kent 14-Aug-2013
Photo © dave brown
14-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow male - Arlington Reservoir 22-Aug-2013
Photo © Butterflysaurus rex
22-Aug-2013
Freshly emerged and drying its wings, with empty pupa nearby.  Warren Edge car park, Southbourne. 13 Apr 2014.
Photo © Mikhail
Freshly emerged and drying its wings, with empty pupa (bottom left). Southbourne, Bournemouth. 15 Apr 2007.
Photo © Mikhail
Clouded Yellow, female, 06/06/2014, Selbourne
Photo © Pauline
06-Jun-2014
IMG 1183-1 Clouded Yellow female, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey, 4.8.2014
Photo © hideandseek
04-Aug-2014

Colias croceus ssp. croceus f. helice


Clouded Yellow - form - Thatcham - 12-Nov-07 (1222) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
12-Nov-2007
Clouded Yellow f.helice, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 8 August 2013 (2)
Photo © Colin Knight
08-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow f.helice, Kithurst Hill, West Sussex, 8 August 2013
Photo © Colin Knight
08-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow Female (f.helice) - Birling Gap, Sussex 1-Oct-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
01-Oct-2009
Clouded Yellow Female (f.helice) - Birling Gap, Sussex 28-Sept-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Sep-2009
Clouded Yellow - imago - Swanwick - 30-Jul-05 [Andy Collins]
Photo © Andy Collins
Clouded Yellow - imago - Sarnano, Italy - 17-Jun-08 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2008
Clouded Yellow - imago - Sarnano, Italy - 17-Jun-08 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Jun-2008
Clouded Yellow - form - Carymoor - 03-Aug-06 [Jules Cross]
Photo © Jules Cross
03-Aug-2006
Clouded Yellow - imago - Lake Kerkini, Greece - 08-Jun-09 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
08-Jun-2009
Clouded Yellow ab.helice. 13/10/09. Seaford, Sussex.
Photo © badgerbob
13-Oct-2009
Clouded Yellow (mating, helice female) 26.8.07  East Sussex. Downland boy
Photo © downland boy
26-Aug-2007
Clouded Yellow - female form - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13
Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013
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 form - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13-6
Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow (f) (helice) 17.8.13  East Sussex. Downland boy
Photo © downland boy
17-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow f.helice - Gillingham, Kent 10-Aug-2013
Photo © Testudo Man
Clouded Yellow Lavernock point Nr  Penarth South Wales 6-Oct-2013
Photo © New Era51
Lavernock Point Nr Penarth South Wales 6-Oct-2013
Photo © New Era51
Clouded Yellow ssp. croceus f. helice 23-Oct-2013
Photo © dave_b_james
Clouded Yellow - Female - F. Helice - Somerset - 06/08/13
Photo © William
06-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow - Female - F. Helice - Somerset - 06/08/13
Photo © William
06-Aug-2013
Clouded Yellow - Female - F. Helice - Somerset 06/08/13
Photo © William
06-Aug-2013
Helice, Oxenbourne Down, 29/07/2014
Photo © Pauline
29-Jul-2014
Clouded Yellow (f.helice) - Kimmeridge coast, Dorset 28-Sept-2014
Photo © ronniethepoo

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

Unclassified Aberrations


Clouded Yellow female ab. aubuissoni?, Southwick, Shoreham, West Sussex, 10 October 2013
Photo © Colin Knight
10-Oct-2013

  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
17.8.2013  Clouded Yellow ovum Surrey 003 2
Photo © hideandseek
17-Aug-2013
16.8.2013  Clouded Yellow ovum Surrey 030-1 1
Photo © hideandseek
16-Aug-2013
12.8.2013--Clouded-Yellow-ovum Surrey  023-2 1
Photo © hideandseek

  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.


Clouded Yellow 1st instar larva. Bournemouth 12.Oct 06
Photo © Mikhail
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
1st instar larva. Southbourne, Bournemouth. 12 Dec 2013
Photo © Mikhail

  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 (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

  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  

Video © Sjaak van Beek
Oranje Luzernevlinder, Clouded Yellow

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Arlington Reservoir, Banstead Woods, Beachy Head, Durlston NNR, Frog Firle Farm, Mill Hill, Moss Field, Old Winchester Hill, St Abbs Head, Warnham LNR, West Yatton Down

  Conservation Status  

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

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Not Listed
Stable-1
Large Increase+235

The table above shows the distribution and population trends of species regularly found in the British Isles. The distribution trend represents a comparison between data for the periods 1995-1999 and 2005-2009. The information provided is taken from the Butterfly Conservation report The State of the UK's Butterflies 2011. The UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Duponchel (1835) Duponchel, P.A.J. (1835) Histoire naturelle des lépidoptères ou papillons de France, par M. J.-B. Godart. Continuée par P.-A.-J. Duponchel. Diurnes. Supplément aux tomes premier et deuxième.
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.
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.

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