Orange-barred Sulphur (Phoebis philea) (Linnaeus, 1763)

Diagnosis: This spectacular butterfly is bright yellow above with a broad orange band crossing the forewings and also bordering the hindwings. It is the largest sulphur (wingspan: 68 to 80 mm) found in Canada, particularly the females, which are darker than the males and have irregular black borders to the wings. The orange band on the forewing upperside reflects ultraviolet light.

Range: Found throughout the western hemisphere, including the Caribbean, the Orange-barred Sulphur only occasionally reaches Canada in southwestern Ontario (north to Huron County, Holmes et al., 1991). It was reported from Nova Scotia (Scott, 1986), but this needs to be verified.

Specimen collection data

Similar Species: The Cloudless Sulphur (P. sennae) has no orange above. [compare images]

Early Stages: The larvae are similar to the Cloudless Sulphur in form, but, according to Scott (1986), they have three different colour patterns. Foodplants are mainly tropical members of the pea family.

Abundance: There are only four records from Canada in years when the species has had a major northward migration.

Flight Season: Although it is commonly found throughout the year in Florida, in the north it is most often seen in mid- to late summer.

Habits: This is a very strong flyer and is best seen when it visits flowers, which it does frequently.

Remarks: Because of its large size and bright colours, this butterfly leaves a strong impression on the observer. However, it should not be expected in Canada, except in years marked by large migrations of southern species.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.