Cloudless Sulphur

By late morning the day had warmed up quite a lot, but I was still pleasantly surprised this late in the year to see a pretty yellow butterfly fluttering around the edges of some water oaks. It settled on the rim of an oak leaf and clung there, wings held up, as if soaking up the warmth of the sun. A medium-size butterfly, its wings were a clear pure yellow, with only a couple of very small dark-rimmed irregular spots on the underside. I’m not sure, but think it was a Cloudless Sulphur butterfly. It had settled just a little too high up for me to be able to try a photo.

Cloudless Sulphurs are among our most common butterflies, and at this time of year they are migrating in large numbers, many of them passing through Georgia on their way to a winter home in Florida or further south. This late summer and fall I have only seen a scattered few passing through our neighborhood, many fewer than in past years. I don’t know if their populations have decreased overall or if it’s a change that has only happened here. In general, they are still considered widespread and common. But this year – when we have seen so very few butterflies at all here, it seems to me that almost no butterfly species can be considered safe. 

The simple joy of watching a lemon-yellow butterfly on a sunny day is no longer something we can take for granted. When the chance comes along, the only thing to do is to stop everything and just watch. Watch it fly, watch it settle on a leaf or flower or blade of grass, search its delicate wings and try to remember every intricate trace, until it flies away again. And be grateful. 

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