Backyard Nature Wednesday: Common Buckeye butterfly

Common Buckeye butterfly, Junonia coenia, in three poses.

The Common Buckeye is a beautiful and strikingly marked butterfly that is supposedly present in my area of Southeast Texas throughout most of the year, but I see it most often in autumn and I think of it as an autumn visitor. With its prominent eyespots and the wide white bar across its forewing tips, it is definitely one of the most easily identified butterfly species that appears in my backyard.

It is a relatively common butterfly and it is resident throughout the southern states and into Mexico. It cannot long survive freezing temperatures at any stage of its life cycle, but in some of our milder winters here, I will see the butterfly around my yard into December and even January. In the spring, it moves northward quickly and colonizes most of the United States and all the way into southern Canada. It may produce two or three generations before fall adults begin their southward migration. Those arriving adults along with the ones that are produced by our local population swell the ranks of these fliers which is why I see more of them in autumn.

Buckeyes like to be in open, sunny locations. They will congregate in fields, dunes, along roadsides, and, yes, in backyards. They will often sit with open wings while nectaring at flowers, as the one in my photograph shows, or while basking in the sun, especially on cool mornings. They also like to congregate at mud puddles to sip moisture.

They are wary butterflies and are quick to fly when they detect the slightest movement nearby. This sometimes makes them difficult to photograph.

Larval food plants for the Buckeye mostly include members of the snapdragon (Scrophulariaceae) and acanthus (Acanthaceae) families and we can help to encourage the presence of these butterflies by planting plants from these families in our gardens. Personally, I want to do everything I can to encourage these beautiful visitors.     


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