~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~
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.
Shannon Trimboli is a beekeeper, farmer, wildlife biologist, and author. She owns Grassy Roads Farm and Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting. Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting specializes in plants and habitat consulting services for honey bees, native pollinators, and wildlife conservation. In 2018, her first book, Plants Honey Bees Use in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, was published. Shannon also writes a weekly blog called Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife. The blog features profiles of pollinators and wildlife, tips for attracting pollinators and wildlife, highlights of different plants for pollinators and wildlife, and life on the farm and nursery. You can sign up to have her blog emailed to you.