The Clouded Yellow Butterfly

Male Clouded Yellow Butterfly (Colias crocea)
Male Clouded Yellow Butterfly (Colias crocea)

Female Clouded Yellow Butterfly (Colias crocea)
Female Clouded Yellow Butterfly (Colias crocea)

The Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) is a small and very common butterfly here in Castilla la Mancha, central Spain. Their intense yellow colouring can be seen flitting busily about the hedgerows, grass verges and wherever flowers are to be found. I do love them and yet have been frustrated by them for years. It is because they are always busily flitting about and whenever they land they close their wings up almost straight away and blend in with the vegetation. In fact if you do a Google image search for them you will find that nearly all of the photos are with their wings closed. I have been a long time trying to get a shot of them with their wings open. I finally managed to do so yesterday. All I needed was to be a bit of a voyeur!

What attracted my attention was a flurry of yellow movement amongst the dry grasses and prickly plants. It was a female Clouded Yellow on a leaf and three males all vying to mate with her. Such activity as there was. I quickly focused on the female and left fly with the camera as the males tried to mate with her. When I saw the shots later I was delighted to have caught both sexes of Clouded Yellow butterfly in the same frames clearly showing their upper markings.

Let’s look at the lower wings first since that is what we normally see. In the two shots of Clouded Yellow butterflies above the one on the left is the male and the female is on the right. Both have a large white spot on the lower hind wing. This spot is called an androconial patch if you need to increase your butterfly vocabulary. The male tends to be more oval shaped and the female more rounded. The female also has brown margins around the outside of the wings.

Now let’s look at the upper wings which is something I have only been able to do in my book and try to imagine them in real life.

Clouded Yellow butterfly (Colias croceus)
Clouded Yellow males left and female right (Colias croceus)

There were actually three male Clouded Yellows vying for her reproductive services. Two can be seen on the left of the above shot and the female on the right. Both male and female have similar orangey-yellow colours but it is in the margins of the wings the main differences are. On the female there are yellow submarginal spots in the dark areas of the wings, both fore and hind. The males have a sort of yellow streaking towards the front of the tips of the fore wings only. Both have an orange spot on the upper hind wing.

This particular female seems very interested in any attention given to her judging by her posture. I’m just glad I was able to see both male and female in the same shot and not just with their wings closed. Brilliant!

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