Flora and Fauna News

Sonoran Desert Edition

Sunday, Aug. 22th, 2021
Vol. 24 No. 4

Sulfur Butterflies
Arrive from Sonora



PHOENIX, Az. ----- Rainfall throughout the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico has been intense and over-abundant in many locations. In response to the explosive growth of vegetation large numbers of yellow butterflies have been migrating north from Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico, searching for suitable plants upon which to lay their eggs. The most abundant species are the large, clear yellow Cloudless Sulfur, Phoebis sennae and the smaller Sleepy Orange, Abaeis nicippe. Watch for them passing in front of you as you drive about. They are strong fliers, but stop frequently to sip nectar at flowers. Among the plants it finds suitable for egg laying is the Palo Brea, a very popular tree in desert landscaping throughout metro Phoenix. Watch these trees for a few minutes in mid-morning and you will likely see a female Cloudless Sulfur enter and press the tip of its abdomen to a leaf. An egg emerges and sticks to the plant ... it will hatch in a few days to a small larva (a.k.a. caterpillar). Palo Brea, Cercidium praecox, is a native to Sonora and Sinaloa from whence the butterflies have arrived. Desert Senna, Senna covesii, is a native Sonoran Desert plant that these butterflies also use for their caterpillars.

Bright yellow cloudless sulfur butterfly

Current Weather Conditions in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, from the National Weather Service

Sleepy Orange Sulfur Butterfly

Flower nectar provides vital energy for flight and in return the butterfly can carry pollen for hundreds of kilometers, thereby possibly cross-pollinating a distant plant.

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Flora and Fauna News, now in its 24th year of publication, appears several times
per month and provides current information about the birds, insects and plants
(natural history) living in the Arizona Sonoran Desert.
Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 2021.
Send questions or comments to mjplagens@arizonensis.org

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