NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The buckeye butterfly, Junonia coenia, is one of the brushfooted butterflies, so called because the front legs are brush-like appendages. These butterflies stand on the second and third pairs of legs and appear to have only four legs because the "brushes" are usually folded neatly against the thorax. They are named for their conspicuous eyespots especially on the hind wings. Females lay eggs singly on their host plants. The caterpillars of the brushfooted butterflies are covered with spines and most of them are dark. This insect overwinters as adults and caterpillars. The chrysalis does not seem to be a resting (diapausing) stage. We have several generations per year in North Carolina.

dorsal view of buckeye butterfly on a flower

The buckeye butterfly is relatively common in North Carolina landscapes.

Side view of a Buckeye butterfly caterpillar

Buckeye butterfly caterpillars have spines but are harmless.

buckeye butterfly prepupa getting ready to molt into its chrysalis stage

A buckeye butterfly prepupa hanging from its host plant.

buckeye butterfly chrysalis

A buckeye butterfly chrysalis suspended from its host plant.

Host Plants

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Buckeye caterpillars are solitary and mostly feed on the weed plantain and on Gerardia, grown for its showy flowers. It also feeds on snapdragon, toadflax and other native weeds. Buckeye butterflies visit numerous weedy and ornamental flowers.

Residential Recommendation

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Because plantain is not a particularly desirable plant in the landscape, should buckeye caterpillars be noticed on it, no control seems necessary. When buckeye caterpillars are found causing actual damage to snapdragon or Gerardia, use Sevin or some other insecticide labeled for use in the landscape.



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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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Publication date: Nov. 27, 2012
Revised: May 4, 2023

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