Sleepy Oranges

Male Sleepy Orange butterflies in New Mexico (photo by Steve Valasek)

I was captivated by this photo Steve Valasek took in New Mexico.  What butterflies are these?

Chuck Tague filled me in:

These are Sleepy Orange butterflies, Eurema nicippe (or Abaeis nicippe), a common sulphur butterfly in the southern U.S.  They range as far north as western Pennsylvania and occur regularly in a field near Mark and Loree’s place in Rostraver.   Some years they irrupt northward in good numbers.

The two in this photo are males.  They need minerals to reproduce which they’re extracting from wet mud or sand (called puddling).

Sleepy Oranges are common now in Florida.  I’ve raised several this year and collected an egg about a month ago that should emerge from its chrysalis this week.  Here’s a photo of one that just eclosed:

Sleepy Orange butterfly eclosing (photo by Chuck Tague)


Google “Eurema nicippe” and you’ll see that the ventral side of the butterfly (underwing, wings closed) is not as interesting as the dorsal side (top, wings open).  Click here to see a Sleepy Orange with its wings open.


And why “sleepy”?  There are two theories:  It flies slowly for a sulphur (this notion is disputed) –or– The two spots on its dorsal wings look like sleepy eyes.


(photo of two butterflies on mud by Steve Valasek, photo of eclosing Sleepy Orange by Chuck Tague)

3 thoughts on “Sleepy Oranges

  1. These were seen at Bosque del Apache NWR, right by where the Rufous-Necked Wood-Rail was seen, but during Labor Day weekend. There were dozens of these butterflies on the various mud-flats, apparently getting minerals.

  2. I saw some butterflys ( Yellow ones, blue ones , and Gold with black ones ) , all at one damp spot on a dirt road in Montana this August. I have some photos but don’t know how to send them. There also , were dozens of each kind.

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