The wingspan of the buckeye is one and one half to two and three-fourths inches. The upperwings are gray-brown. The upperside of the forewing has two orange bars and an eyespot surrounded by ivory coloration. The upperside of the hindwing contains an orange border and two eyespots. The underside of the wings is tan. The eyespot and ivory border of the upperside of the forewing can also be seen on the underside of the forewing. The two eyespots on the upperside of the hindwing may or may not be visible on the underside of the hindwing.
This butterfly species can be found statewide in open areas. Adults are active from April through October. The adult feeds on nectar. The larvae eat a variety of plant species. Several generations are produced each year. This species cannot survive the cold temperatures of an Illinois winter. Adult buckeye butterflies from Illinois and regions further north migrate through the state in the fall to areas of the United States further south. The species moves back into the state in the spring.