Monarch Monitoring Project - 9/29/08

The Monarch Monitoring Project Presents:

The Insect of the Week!

Hello all! Here at the MMP we love insects. Aside from the fabulous and amazing monarch butterfly, there are so many other interesting insect residents and visitors here in Cape May. We thought it would be fun (and educational) to chose one insect every week to learn more about. All you amateur entomologists out there rejoice! Insects play such an important part in the environment around us. They are pollinators, decomposer, helpful predators, and even indicators of ecosystem health. Insects outnumber humans on this planet 200 million to 1! They deserve our respect and admiration. This is why we bring you the insect of the week:

Cloudless Sulfur (Phoebis sennae)

Perhaps you have seen a big yellow butterfly cruising around Cape May? This is the Cloudless Sulfur! The picture above is a female cloudless sulfur. She can be distinguished from the male by the spots on her wings and the slight black/brown edging outlining the wings. Cloudless sulfurs prefer certain host plants, somewhat like the monarch butterfly. Depending on the region the host plant may be the partridge pea (Chamaecrista cinerea) or a type of senna (Senna sp.).

(Photo from Dale Clark of the Dallas Country Lepidopterists Society)

Larave of the cloudless sulfur can be green (as above) or yellow. Caterpillars will build a tent-like structure on it's host plant to hide from predators while they feed. The chrysalis of the cloudless sulfur is a pale green color similar to that of a monarch.

(Photo from Dale Clark of the Dallas Country Lepidopterists Society)

Cloudless sulfurs range from South America up to parts of Canada, but are most common in warmer areas. During summer months they will move northward in search of food sources and ideal reproduction habitat. Once the weather becomes colder Cloudless sulfurs return south. Those seen in Cape May now are moving through, much like the monarch (though they probably aren't going quite as far!). The best place to spot this wonderful butterfly is
in open areas or fields when the sun is shining. Here is the taxonomic placement of the Cloudless sulfur:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Athropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera (butterflies/moths)
Family: Pieridae (sulfurs)
Genus: Phoebis
Species: Phoebis sennae

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