Dear editor (and fledgling backyard butterfly farmer),
I loved seeing the pictures of your yellow Cloudless Sulphur butterfly in the recent issue of the Messenger Mountain News! We are in the height of butterfly season here at the Mermaid and I have been observing and reading up on this particular species. They are abundant in the air with the males chasing the females and the females laying dozens of tiny white eggs on the dark multifaceted flower buds of the Cassia bushes, their host plant. I have read that upon hatching, the caterpillars will burrow into the buds, out of view of predators, as they dine
on the flower petals and get fat. Inside they even wrap up their “frass” (the official term for butterfly poop) into little packages bound with silk and stash it aside. If they eat the green leaves, they will turn green in a day or so. If they consume the yellow flowers again, they will change back into that color. How cool is that!
The Editor responds
Bill was kind enough to identify the caterpillar for me, but I got the name of the butterfly wrong in the article. It is a Cloudless (not Clouded) butterfly. There is a difference, be it ever so slight. I did not see it emerge from the Chrysalis, but late that night I checked on it and there, holding onto a leafless stem of the Cassia plant, was the newly hatched butterfly, which I luckily snapped a photo of. The next morning it was gone. Sadly, there are no blossoms on the Cassia now, but I’m looking forward to next year, when I hope it will be bigger and have more blossoms.
—Flavia Potenza (Fledgling indeed!)