Friday, October 15, 2010

2010: Year of the Common Buckeye

---Two Common Buckeyes in field near Wildwood Park in Radford. Photo by Nancy Kent---

Sometime back in April of this year, I started reading reports of Common Buckeyes in higher than average numbers throughout most of the eastern US. There were some reports of these butterflies dispersing north. By late April I began to notice several in the fields around Radford, and a few in my yard. Some of these were nectaring on flowers, while a few were intent on flying to the northeast.

I guess the children, or maybe the grandchildren of these spring Common Buckeyes started migrating southward--some as early as mid to late July. By mid-August this migration was in full swing. Large numbers have been reported this week as well, though I bet the cold snap that's happening today might be the beginning of the end of that migration, at least in this part of Virginia.

Because Common Buckeyes have been so abundant this fall, it's been easy to find their caterpillars. Several people have told me about the caterpillars crawling in short grass (probably lawns and mowed fields with plantain, one of several plants the caterpillars feed on). A few people have shared pictures with me.

The pictures below are of Common Buckeyes in and near Wildwood Park in Radford; all of theses photos have been kindly shared by Nancy Kent, who has patiently documented this species and many other insects, and flowers in the park this year. For these Common Buckeye pupae attached by a bit of silk to stems of Broom Sedge, it will be a race against time and against a killing frost. Common Buckeyes are not known to overwinter in most of Virginia in any life stage (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or adult). If they emerge in a few days, and if the weather stays warm enough, maybe they will high-tail it south to a warmer climate. I'm cheering for these critters.

A Note: Devin Floyd wrote a wonderful blog posting about this butterfly species:
The Common Buckeye

---Caterpillars and pupae of Common Buckeye...they've made their homes on the stems of Broom Sedge. One of the caterpillars is starting to change to a chrysalis, notice it's formed a 'J'---

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