Colias meadii
Mead’s Sulphur

Family Description:
Alternate Common Name: Alpine Orange.
Caterpillar: The thin caterpillar is yellowish green to green, dotted with black, and lined lengthwise with yellow and white stripes. The body has many black bumps (tubercles) and black hairs.
Adult: The butterfly is medium-sized, with a wingspan of 1 to 2 inches. The male is orange on the upperside, the wings edged with a wide black border. The female may be a lighter orange, and the brown to black border on the wings is interrupted with orange spots. Both sexes may have a small dark spot on the forewing and an orange spot on the hindwing on the upperside. Underneath is gray to green, with a white spot on the hindwing, outlined in red. The wings have a pinkish fringe.

This species has a narrow range, as it is found only in the Rocky Mountains, from southern Alberta to Colorado. Its presence has been documented in Idaho only in Lemhi County, but it may also occur in the panhandle portion of the state along the Montana border.

Typically it is found at higher elevations in alpine meadows and on rocky slopes, but it may also occur in forests and along streams.


Caterpillar: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of members of the pea family (Fabaceae), such as clovers (Trifolium spp.) and milk vetch (Astragalus spp.).
Adult: Butterflies drink flower nectar, often from composite flowers.

There is one generation of caterpillars each summer. The young caterpillars overwinter in a physiological state called diapause, and emerge in the spring to feed, molt, and eventually pupate. Adults genrally fly from July through August. Butterflies fly very quickly and erratically, and upon landing, often make their way down into the vegetation where they are well camouflaged.

Males actively patrol in search of receptive females. Females lay eggs singly on the leaves of host plants.

Idaho Status: Unprotected nongame species.
Global Rank:

G4; population levels are secure, but may be of concern in the future.

Ferris, C. D. and F. M. Brown. (eds.) 1981. Butterflies of the Rocky Mountain States. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 442 pp.

Opler, P. A., H. Pavulaan, and R. E. Stanford. 1995. Butterflies of North America. Jamestown, North Dakota, USA: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. (Version 05Nov98).

Opler, P. A. and A. B.Wright. 1999. A Field Guide to the Western Butterflies.  Second Edition.  Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, USA, 540 pp.

Pyle, R. M. 1981. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, New York, USA, 924 pp.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, USA, 583 pp.

Stanford, R. E. and P. A. Opler. 1993. Atlas of Western U.S.A. Butterflies (Including Adjacent Parts of Canada and Mexico). Published by authors, Denver, Colorado, USA, 275 pp.