elizabeth_mann_article_decBy Elizabeth Mann

The Cloudless Sulphur butterfly can be found from southern United States, through Central America, Costa Rica, to the northern part of Argentina. To survive, the Cloudless Sulpur butterfly has the shape similar to that of a leaves. This camouflage is so detailed that even the veins on the butterfly’s wings duplicates that of the veins on leaves. The Cloudless Sulphur’s yellow color blends in with yellow flowers and dying leaves of the plants on which it feeds.

Cloudless Sulphur caterpillars also use camouflage for protection as they feed in Cassia trees. In the Summer months the caterpillars are green to blend in with the leaves of Cassia plants. In November the Cassia becomes covered in beautiful yellow flowers. As the caterpillars eat the flowers, they begin to turn yellow. This yellow color provides the perfect camouflage while the caterpillar crawls among the blossoms.

One day in my garden, I discovered yet another survival skill of the Cloudless Sulphur. On my own Cassia flower buds I noticed holes, but didn’t see a caterpillar crawling near by to create the chamber. As I inched closer to observe, a caterpillar’s head suddenly passed inside the hole. At that moment, I realized a creature had made a home inside the flower! I also noticed that this industrious creature wrapped silk around the stem and bud to ensure that the bud would not fall with its extra weight.

With my curiosity rising, I gently opened the bud. To my surprise inside was a yellow Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar! Inside its “home” It was happily eating without having to worry about wasps or predators bothering it. I discovered that this Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar is a wonderful house keeper. In the flower bud it had neatly piled its droppings in the corner and wrapped it in silk. The caterpillar wasn’t very happy with my ruining its “home”. I gently transported it to my caterpillar nursery.

Through this discovery, I learned that not only can Cloudless Sulphurs eat among the flowers, but they can also eat inside of the flower buds. The small lighter weight caterpillars are more likely to stay inside the buds. The large caterpillars are too heavy and eat too much to remain inside. The large caterpillars must depend on their camouflage to protect them from predators. Life as a caterpillar is full of danger, but the use of camouflage increases their chances for surviving to become a butterfly. For more about my research of butterflies, visit my blog at http://elizabethssecretgarden.blogspot.com/