New Jersey Butterfly Club

A chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)

Common Buckeye

Junonia coenia

Identification: Small—2.0". Above: Very striking pattern on a brown ground color. FW and HW both highlighted by large eyespots (often showing purplish iridescence), with white band across FW nearly surrounding FW eyespot, orange band near margin of HW, and 2 red stripes in FW. Below: HW tan and brown with 2 small postmedian eyespots. FW shows orange and whitish bands with a prominent eyespot in the whitish band. In fall, individuals with variable amounts of reddish-brown on the ventral HW appear—so-called “rosa” forms. See link under Comments for detailed discussion.

NJ Status and Distribution: Possible resident in southern counties, but largely migratory. Common and widespread from Monmouth and Burlington counties south and an increasingly regular visitor to northern counties. Even in South Jersey, however, abundance is largely dependent on immigration from the south.

NJ Range Map-Common Buckeye

Habitat: Upland fields and wet meadows. Easily attracted to gardens with flowers such as Butterfly Bush, Purple Coneflower, asters, goldenrods, and sedum. In wetlands it is partial to Purple Loosestrife.

Flight Period: Mid-March into December but most seen in summer and fall. Extreme dates: North Jersey 3/12—12/16; South Jersey 1/2—12/31.

Caterpillar Food Plants: Figworts in the genera Agalinis (formerly Gerardia) and Linaria, also plantains (Plantago).

Overwintering Stage: Adult, but probably only in the southern counties and then perhaps not every year.

Good Locations: Higbee Beach WMA, Cattus Island CP, Sandy Hook GNRA, Cape May Point SP.

Comments: Often seen patrolling along paths through open fields with its distinctive flap-and-glide flight. One of the easiest species of caterpillars to find—just look on leaves of Agalinis in late summer and fall. See https://blogs.stockton.edu/sjbfs/2015/11/09/our-fall-rosa-common-buckeyes/ for a fascinating discussion of fall “rosa” forms.


Common Buckeye

Flatbrookville, Sussex Co., NJ, 7/30/04.


Common Buckeye

Pine Barrens, NJ, 6/21/08, on Indianhemp.


Common Buckeye

“Rosa” form, with ventral hindwing completely reddish-brown. Cape May Point, Cape May Co., NJ, 9/23/17.


Common Buckeye

Partial “rosa” form, with reddish elements on tan HW, Cape May Co,. 9/18/16, on Salt Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea odorata).


Common Buckeye caterpillar

Caterpillar on Agalinis food plant, Cumberland Co., NJ, 9/21/18.


Common Buckeye chrysalis

Chrysalis, Woodbine, Cape May Co., NJ, 9/8/19.


Purple Gerardia

Purple Gerardia or Purple False Foxglove (Agalinis purpurea)—formerly Gerardia purpurea. This is one of many species of plants (primarily plantains and figworts) used by Common Buckeye caterpillars.