Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eye in the Sky

Yesterday was a long day of sitting around waiting for the termite guy to finish his work here in My Florida Backyard. (Yup, we've got termites. Who doesn't in Florida?) Around mid-afternoon, I wandered out to the mailbox and was distracted along the way by a fluttering shadow on the pavement in front of me. I looked up in delight - could it be a butterfly?

It's been a long time since I've spotted a butterfly in My Florida Backyard - more than six weeks. I've started using a site called Butterflies I've Seen to track butterflies in our gardens, and the last sighting I had was a Monarch on Feb. 4. Yesterday, even though the breeze was a bit cool, the sun was plenty warm enough for this Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) to catch some rays in the front yard.

Buckeyes seem to be a spring butterfly to me - I tend to spot them early in the year along with Red Admirals, and then not see them again for months. In the air, they're nearly impossible to identify, as they're small and quick, but once you see them holding still for a few seconds, the markings are impossible to mistake.

Those wonderful spots on their wings are intended to mimic the eyes of a much larger creature, to scare off any possible predators. If you stare at a Buckeye too long, you may start to feel like it's staring back at you!

The Buckeye uses several different plants as hosts for its caterpillars, including Plantain, members of the Snapdragon family, and various types of Ruellia, including Mexican and Wild Petunia. We have plenty of the last two in My Florida Backyard, so I'll be keeping my eye out for caterpillars in the next few weeks.

Having butterflies in My Florida Backyard again is a real treat. As much as I love the birds of winter, I guess my heart really lies with lepidoptera in all their wonderful forms.


  1. Lucky you! I do miss my butterflies. I had so many last spring right thru to winter. I had upped the number of larval plants and I'm sure that was what did it. Hopefully, those larval plants will return from the seemingly dead soon.

  2. I, too, have missed the butterflies this winter, and am glad to see they are beginning to reappear. They'll have to survive on their favorite weeds until my butterfly plants come back.

  3. Isn't Florida the wrong state for Buckeyes?? =) Or is it all of those Snowbirds leaving things behind?

    Haven't talked to you in way too long. Hope all is going well with you.