Common Buckeye Butterfly

(Junonia coenia)

The Common Buckeye Butterfly is well known for its distinctive large eyespots on the upper wing side.

Primarily a southern butterfly species, it emigrates North in the summer and is found in all parts of the United States except the northwest.

It can't withstand the northern winters, however, so is a resident only in the southern states.

On the eastern seaboard, large masses of emigrating butterflies can sometimes be seen.

Common buckeye


The Buckeye's habitat is open areas with low vegetation and some bare ground. Including trails, roadsides, open parks and gardens.

Common Buckeye Butterfly Description:

The Common Buckeye Butterfly is a member of the diverse Brush-footed Butterfly family. This means it is related to the Monarch, Viceroy, Malachite, and the Fritillary subfamily. The front pair of legs of these butterflies are very short and almost so difficult to see that many people only count 4 legs at first glance. In addition to their diminutive length, the front pair of legs are also covered in short bristles, or hairs, like a hair brush.

Common Buckeyes are mostly brown and have one small and one large black-and-blue eyespot on every wing. These eyespots are ringed in orange and black. Two prominent orange bands on each forewing are near the head with a thick ivory band that encompasses the larger eyespot. Orange and light brown form a border at the bottom edges of the wings. The underside of the forewings are less ornate, retaining two medium-sized eyespots on a brown wing. Each antennae has a small knob at the tip.

Though seen occasionally as far north as Canada and the northern U.S. states, the Common Buckeye does not breed there. They prefer warmer states and can breed up to 4 times a year in warmer climates. They usually reside in open land. Males are very territorial and will fly out at anything that passes too closely. The caterpillar is a black color with white and orange lines and stripes. It also has black bristles sticking out on the dorsal (back) side at each pair of legs. These caterpillars love to feed on plants from the plantain, verbena, figwort, snapdragon, monkey flower, and stonecrop families.

The eyespots likely serve to startle or distract predators, especially young birds.


They are fond of basking on bare ground, this butterfly will return again and again to the same spot.

It has a rapid, darting flight.

Male Buckeyes visit mud puddles for moisture.

Males perch on bare ground or low plants, occasionally patrolling in search of females, but they are not territorial.

Larvae and host plants:

A variety of (typically) herbaceous plants are used

Favored larval hosts include Plantain (Plantago), Snapdragon (Antirrhinum) and Toadflax (Linaria).

The Female Buckeye lays a single egg on buds or the upper side of leaves.

The larvae are solitary and feed on the foliage, flowers, and fruits of the host plant.

Larvae are mostly blackish, with blue-black spines running down the body.

Adults and some larvae overwinter in southern areas.

Buckeye Larvae

The pupa may not have a resting phase (diapause), as in many other butterflies.

Nectar plants:

Aster (Aster), Coreopsis (Coreopsis), Knapweed (Centaurea), Chickory (Chichorium) and several others.

Add a source of water in your gardens as the Common Buckeye and many other butterflies will drink from mud puddles or from the rim of a birdbath.

Common Buckeye and Other Butterflies

More Information on Butterflies

A Butterfly Friendly Yard

Create a Butterfly Garden

Nectar and Butterfly Plants

Share Your Passions, I am with "SBI"

Butterflies, Birds, Gardens and Much more.

Sign up for your weekly "Gardening For Wildlife" newsletter.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Gardening For Wildlife.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.