Colias is a genus of butterflies in the family Pieridae. They are often called clouded yellows; the North American name "sulphurs" is elsewhere used for Coliadinae in general. The closest living relative is the genus Zerene,[4] which is sometimes included in Colias.

Clouded yellows
Clouded yellows (Colias croceus) mating Bulgaria.jpg
C. croceus mating, Bulgaria
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Pieridae
Tribe: Coliadini
Genus: Colias
Fabricius, 1807
Type species
Papilio hyale
  • Eurymus Horsfield, [1829]
  • Ganura Zetterstedt, [1839]
  • Scalidoneura Butler, 1871
  • Eriocolias Watson, 1895
  • Coliastes Hemming, 1931
  • Protocolias Petersen, 1963 [2]
  • Mesocolias Petersen, 1963
  • Neocolias Berger, 1986 [3]
  • Palaeocolias Berger, 1986
  • Eucolias Berger, 1986
  • Similicolias Berger, 1986
  • Paracolias Berger, 1986
Wing venation

This genus occurs throughout the Holarctic, including the arctic regions. They are also found in South America, Africa, China and India. Their caterpillars feed on certain Fabaceae, for example vetches (Vicia). While most are thus beneficial by keeping weeds at bay, some occasionally become nuisance pests on crops like alfalfa. In some species, the wings of males have brilliant ultraviolet reflection, while those of females do not.[5][6] Adults of both sexes have various colour forms.

Most if not all species of this genus, as usual for Coliadinae, do not sequester toxins or other noxious compounds from their food plants. They are therefore a well-loved prey item of insectivores as compared to Pieris of the related Pierinae. They make up this disadvantage by being more nimble and better able to evade attacks by would-be predators.[7]

Notable lepidopterologists who did many studies on this genus included Julius Röber, J. Malcolm Fawcett, George B. Johnson and Henry Rowland-Brown.


Hybridization runs rampant in these polytypic and clinal[8] butterflies, confounding molecular phylogenetics studies. In general, cladistic analyses of only one type of data (particularly mtDNA sequences) cannot be considered reliable. Regardless, the evolutionary distance within some "species" is so large that cryptic speciation rather than (or in addition to) interbreeding seems to be the cause. For example, the Beringian populations traditionally assigned to the northern clouded yellow (C. hecla) could warrant recognition as a species; hybridization between North American and Asian populations seems to have played a role in their evolution, but as a whole they appear to be a rather old and distinct lineage.[9]


Listed alphabetically:[10]

Danube clouded yellow (C. myrmidone)
Left = upperside pattern
Right = underside pattern

Distinguishing characteristicsEdit

Colias are usually some shade of yellow, orange or white. Their uppersides feature black borders (usually solid in males, often with pale spots in females). They always perch with wings closed, but upperside pattern may be seen faintly through the wing, or glimpsed in flight.[11]



  1. ^ Josef Grieshuber & Gerardo Lamas (2007). "A synonymic list of the genus Colias Fabricius, 1807 (Lepidoptera: Pieridae)" (PDF). Mitteilungen der Münchner Entomologischen Gesellschaft. 97: 131–171. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
  2. ^ Bjorn Petersen, 1963. The male genitalia of some Colias species.Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 1: 135-156.[1] Archived 2017-06-03 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Lucien A Berger, 1986 Systématique du genre Colias F: Lepidoptera-Pieridae Bruxelles: Imprimerie des Sciences, 1986.
  4. ^ Andrew V. Z. Brower (November 16, 2006). "Coliadinae". Tree of Life Web Project. Retrieved August 7, 2008.
  5. ^ M. L. Lim & D. Li (2005). "Extreme ultraviolet sexual dimorphism in jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae)". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 89 (3): 397–406. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2006.00704.x.
  6. ^ Andrew V. Z. Brower (November 16, 2006). "Colias". Tree of Life Web Project. Retrieved August 7, 2008.
  7. ^ Robert B. Srygley & Joel G. Kingsolver (1998). "Red-wing blackbird reproductive behaviour and the palatability, flight performance, and morphology of temperate pierid butterflies (Colias, Pieris, and Pontia)". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 64 (1): 41–55. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1998.tb01532.x.
  8. ^ Paul C. Hammond, 1990 Patterns of geographic variation and evolution in polytypic butterflies Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 29(1-2):54-76. [2] Archived 2013-12-03 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Christopher W. Wheat & Ward B. Watt (2008). "A mitochondrial-DNA-based phylogeny for some evolutionary-genetic model species of Colias butterflies (Lepidoptera, Pieridae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 47 (3): 893–902. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.03.013. PMID 18442929.
  10. ^ Markku Savela. "Colias Fabricius, 1807". Lepidoptera and some other life forms.
  11. ^ Brock, J.P. & Kaufman, K. Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. Houghton Mifflin, 2003, p. 60.

Further readingEdit

  • Vladimir Lukhtanov & Alexander G. Lukhtanov, 1994 Die Tagfalter Nordwestasiens: (Lepidoptera, Diurna) V. Eitschberger ISBN 9783923807024
  • Joseph T. Verhulst (English translation R. Leestmans, editing E. Benton and R. Leestmans), 2000 Les Colias du Globe translation Monograph of the genus Colias Keltern, Germany: Goecke & Evers ISBN 9783931374150
  • Glassberg, Jeffrey Butterflies through Binoculars, The West (2001)
  • Guppy, Crispin S. and Shepard, Jon H. Butterflies of British Columbia (2001)
  • James, David G. and Nunnallee, David Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011)
  • Pelham, Jonathan Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada (2008)
  • Pyle, Robert Michael The Butterflies of Cascadia (2002)

Colias [fr] "Le genre Colias" provides distribution information in French.

External linksEdit