February: Sulphurs

Several kinds of Sulphurs visit us at Shamrock.

The easiest to identify are the bright lemon-yellow Cloudless Sulphurs. Cloudless Sulphurs and Tiger Swallowtails are the only North Carolina butterflies that can be reliably identified from a distance – even when driving down a highway.

We see a lot of Sleepy Orange Sulphurs at Shamrock as well. They can be identified by a mark on their upper wings that looks like a pair of closed eyes. Sulphurs are fairly skittish and it’s hard to get close to them, so they can be challenging to identify.

Slim, green Sulphur caterpillars hide well in plain sight.

So do other garden inhabitants.

The Pieridae family includes Whites as well as Sulphurs. Most of the Whites that visit Shamrock are Cabbage Whites, a European import whose caterpillars feed on brassicas like cabbage and broccoli. They’re the only butterflies that cause problems in our vegetable gardens. We don’t raise them.

A Year in Shamrock’s Gardens, the 2020 calendar produced by the Shamrock Gardens PTA, celebrates 10 years of our school’s butterfly gardens. Thanks to Lexie Longstreet for the generous donation that allowed us to give a calendar to every family and staff member at the school.