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.