Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
Exceedingly fond of open places, the buckeye is found in vacant lots, pastures, old fields, backyard gardens and along roadsides. Although generally very abundant, the buckeye is not an easy butterfly to observe. When approached, it often takes off in a rapid, low, zigzag flight, only to quickly return and alight at a increasingly greater distance from its would-be viewer.
The buckeye establishes summer breeding colonies throughout most of the U.S., but is unable to survive the sub-freezing winter temperatures in the north. As a result, buckeyes engage in a massive southward migration each fall and overwinter at lower latitudes, including Florida.
The unmistakable bright colors and large eyespots adorning the upper surface of the buckeyes wings serve to startle curious predators and also to deflect attacks away from the vulnerable head and body. In stark contrast, its wings beneath have reduced pattern elements and are colored in muted shades of brown to rose. This overall “dead leaf” appearance helps to camouflage the butterfly while at rest.
Buckeye caterpillars feed on a wide range of different host plants. The caterpillars are black and white with orange spots on the sides and covered with branched spines.