The Clouded Yellow is one of the truly migratory European butterflies and a regular visitor to Britain and Ireland. Although some of these golden-yellow butterflies are seen every year, the species is famous for occasional mass immigrations and subsequent breeding, which are fondly and long remembered as ''Clouded Yellow Years''. A small proportion of females are pale yellow (form helice), which can be confused with the rarer Pale and Berger's Clouded Yellows.

Size and Family

  • Family: Whites and yellows
  • Size: Large 
  • Wing Span Range (male to female): 57-62mm

Caterpillar Foodplants

A range of leguminous plants is used, including wild and cultivated clovers (Trifolium spp.), Lucerne (Medicago sativa), and less frequently, Common Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).



Clouded Yellows may be seen in any habitat, but congregate in flowery places where the larval foodplants grow. As clovers are still commonly cultivated, the Clouded Yellow is one of the few butterfly species that has no difficulty locating breeding habitat in the modern farmed countryside. In southern England there is a preference for unimproved chalk downland.


  • Countries: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • Anywhere, but most commonly close to the coast in southern England.
  • Distribution Trend Since 1970’s = +144%.

Clouded Yellow - Iain Leach

Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow - Bob Eade

Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow - Bob Eade

Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow (underwing) - Andrew Cooper

Clouded Yellow (underwing)

Clouded Yellow (upperwing) - Tony Morris

Clouded Yellow (upperwing)

Clouded Yellow (f. helice) - Iain Leach

Clouded Yellow (f. helice)

Clouded Yellow (caterpillar) by Peter Eeles

Clouded Yellow (caterpillar)

Clouded Yellow (pupa) - Dean Morley

Clouded Yellow (pupa)