Upper Newport Bay, CA. © Peter J. Bryant.

Wandering Skipper

Panoquina errans


Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae

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Big Canyon, Newport Beach, Orange County, CA. 9-7-06. © Ron Hemberger

Big Canyon, Newport Beach, Orange County, CA. 9-8-06. © Ron Hemberger

Big Canyon, Newport Beach, Orange County, CA. 7-18-09. © Ron Hemberger

Characteristics: Dark rich brown with cream-colored spots on dorsal forewing; ventral hindwing veins are noticeably outlined with this cream color, giving a "streaked" appearance. Spots on dorsal forewing usually hyaline. Forewing length: 13-14 mm.

Similar Species: The coloration of the Umber Skipper (Paratrytone melane) is a richer chestnut-brown, but it has somewhat similar markings. The Eufala Skipper (Lerodea eufala) is more similar in appearance to smaller markings on the dorsal forewing, and lacks the "streaked" yellowish scale pattern on the ventral hindwing.

Habitats, Behavior: This localized species is found only along the coast. The habitat is usually ocean bluffs, and other open areas near the ocean. The similar-appearing Umber Skipper is more often found in shaded woodland or in established residential areas. Unlike this species, the Umber Skipper is not limited to coastal areas.

Distribution: Our records extend from Huntington Beach to Upper Newport Bay, where an exceptionally large colony exists, south to Capistrano Beach. The butterfly no doubt occurs along much of coastal Orange County. One specimen was even sighted by the author along the bluffs at Big Corona del Mar State Beach, a heavily disturbed area with little remaining suitable habitat.

Flight Period: The species flies in variable abundance from March to November; multiple brooded. The species is definitely most common during the summer months.

Larval Foodplant: Charles Dammers recorded this as Distichlis spicata (Salt Grass), which is common at Upper Newport Bay and along the coast.

Other Remarks: Upper Newport Bay may very well support the largest existing colony of this butterfly. It, along with the Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus), Field Skipper (Atalopedes campestris), and Sandhill Skipper (Polites sabuleti), may literally swarm during August along the road and the bluffs near Big Canyon on the west side of Upper Newport Bay. I have usually found errans adults nectaring at flowers of Heliotropium or Haplopappus although they also sometimes nectar on Frankenia blossoms. Adults may be seen flying over the marshy areas between the road and the open water. The Wandering Skipper's known range extends along the coast from the cape region of Baja California (MacNeill, 1962) to Santa Barbara County (J. Parchen, personal communication), but only in suitable localities within this range. It is rarely abundant, and was under consideration by the Federal Office of Endangered Species in 1974 for possible listing on the Endangered Species List as a threatened subspecies because of the widespread elimination of its coastal habitat. The continued preservation of the Upper Newport Bay is desirable for the continued survival of the butterfly at healthy population levels.

From Orsak, L. J. (1977). The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Center for Pathobiology Miscellaneous Publication #3. University of California Press, New York. 349pp.

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