Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan to 2-3/4 inches. The upperside is brown; the underside of the hindwing is brown or tan in the summer form and reddish-brown in the winter form. The forewing has two orange bars and a large eyespot touched by or within a broad, creamy-white postmedian band. The part of the band above the eyespot and the inner edge of the eyespot are creamy white. The hindwing has two large eyespots and a broad orange bar along the lower margin. Females usually are larger than males. The caterpillar is black with white or orange stripes, metallic bluish-black spines, and orange or black legs; the top of the head is orange. The chrysalis is light brown with dark markings.
Widespread in the United States; occasionally migrates north to southern Canada; West Indies and Mexico.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Common and present all year in most of Florida; large numbers migrate to Florida in the summer and fall.
Open fields, beaches and sunny disturbed areas.
Three or more broods per year in Florida. The small green eggs are laid singly on leaf buds or on the upperside of the leaves of host plants.
Adults fly in a fast, erratic manner, rising up and down; they perch on low plants or bare earth. During mating flights and while defending territory they may fly up to heights of 30 feet or more, often tumbling over one another. Caterpillars may hide at the base of plants, near the ground.
Caterpillars are solitary and feed on the leaves of host plants. Native larval host plants include the cultivated wildflowers American bluehearts (Buchnera americana) and Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis), Canada toadflax (Linaria canadensis) rockland twinflower (Dyschoriste angusta), thickleaf wild petunia (Ruellia succulenta), and turkey tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora). Other native host plants include the wildflowers beach false foxglove (Agalinis fasciculata), common twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia), Florida toadflax (Linaria floridana), Piedmont blacksenna (Seymeria pectinata) and saltmash false foxglove (Agalinis maritima) in South Florida and swamp twinflower (Dyschoriste humistrata) and yaupon blacksenna (Seymeria cassioides) in Central and North Florida. Larvae also feed on the nonnative lawn weeds common plantain (Plantago major) and English plantain (Plantago lanceolata).