It’s easy to recognize the small to medium-sized butterflies in this Family, even from a distance. They are typically a solid white, yellow or orange with a few black markings. You need to get a bit closer to tell the species apart. The patterns may vary by sex, and the patterning is further enhanced with ultraviolet markings, which we can’t see but are important to help butterflies find suitable mates.
The cylindrical mostly hairless green caterpillars sometimes have narrow lengthwise stripes. They eat an assortment of plants, often those in the legume or cabbage families. The chrysalis (butterfly pupa) stands upright and is attached with a loop of silk about the middle and by hooks at the bottom. The vase-shaped eggs are laid singly on the host plant.
This Family is commonly grouped into the Whites, Sulphurs, Marbles and Orangetips.
The white ones are unsurprisingly called ‘Whites’. In North America, whites in general are western butterflies. There are seven species that might be found in Alberta, some of them restricted to the mountains.
The yellow butterflies are called ‘Sulphurs’, although females of some species might be white. There are about a dozen species that can be found in Alberta, particularly in the mountains.
The Marbles have a mosaic pattern of grayish greens and creamy white, particularly on the hind wing. There are three or four species that can be found in Alberta.
The only Orangetip that can be found in Alberta is the Stella Orangetip (sometimes considered the same species as the Sara Orangetip) in dry sunny sagebrush covered hills in the southwestern part of the Province.
Members of this widespread and common Family may be seen visiting flowers in sunny, open places and often sit with wings folded tightly above the body. Sometimes, they may be found in masses, puddling in mud.
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Where to find Whites, Sulphurs and Orangetips in Alberta
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Whites, Sulphurs and Orangetips Behaviour
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