The common buckeye (Junonia coenia) is a familiar summer and fall butterfly throughout much of the U.S. They are easy to observe because they are found in open fields and gardens, and they tend to fly relatively low. Common buckeyes will also land on patches of bare dirt or mud.
Buckeyes get their name from the big eye spots on their wings. Three different species of buckeye butterflies can be found in the U.S., although as the name suggests, the common buckeye is the most common. One of the other two species is only found in far southern Florida and the other species is only found along the Mexican / U.S. border. Because the other two species are so uncommon throughout most of the U.S., the “common” part of the common buckeye’s name is often dropped, especially in areas where the other two species don’t exist.
Adult common buckeyes drink nectar from a wide range of flowers, especially flowers that are in the aster family which includes goldenrod, ironweed, sunflowers, mistflower, asters, coneflowers, and many others. Common buckeye caterpillars feed on the foliage of plants such as snapdragons, false fox gloves, plantains, and wild petunias.
Unlike many of our butterflies which overwinter as caterpillars or chrysalises, the common buckeye can’t withstand freezing temperatures at any stage in its life cycle. This means that each fall, common buckeye butterflies migrate into Florida and possibly other areas of the Deep South. In Florida and parts of the Deep South, common buckeyes can be active all year long because the temperatures never dip below freezing. Then in the spring, as the temperatures warm up, common buckeyes begin to move north again and in some years may get almost to Canada before the fall migration begins again.
This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology.
Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.