Checkerspots: quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino)
(Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Melitaeinae: Melitaeini)
Profile prepared by Scott Hoffman Black and Mace Vaughan, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
The distribution and abundance of the quino checkerspot have been dramatically reduced during the past century as a result of agricultural and urban development and other land-use changes in southern California. Other impacts include type conversion of native habitats by non-native grasses and forbs, fire management (suppression) practices and grazing. The quino checkerspot is the second subspecies of the widespread butterfly Euphydryas edita to be listed under the Endangered Species Act (The bay checkerspot, E. e. bayensis, being the other; see Red List profile for more information).
Xerces Red List Status: Critically Imperiled
Canada – Species at Risk Act: N/A
Canada – provincial status: N/A
USA – Endangered Species Act: Endangered
USA – state status: None
IUCN Red List: N/A
Monitoring of the reference population shows a sharp decline in this animal from 1998 population levels. Proposed development at Temecula, San Diego County, will further reduce suitable habitat.
The quino checkerspot is a federal endangered species (Federal Register 62: 2313; June 1, 1976).
Recovery Plan: Recovery Plan quino checkerspot Butterfly (final; 9/17/03) Critical Habitat: Designated (Federal Register 67:18355-18395; 4/15/02)
The California Endangered Species Act does not allow listing of insects, so despite its precarious status, the quino checkerspot has no protection under state legislation. The California Department of Fish and Game includes this butterfly on its Special Animals list.
The quino checkerspot is in the Nymphalidae (brush-foot) butterfly family. It is a medium sized butterfly, with a wingspread of about 3 cm. The dorsal surface of the wings are a checkerboard of brown, red and yellow spots. The quino checkerspot tends to be darker and redder than other subspecies.
Euphydryas editha quino (Behr), 1863. This butterfly was previously placed within the E. chalcedona complex. However, it is considered that is should correctly be placed within the E. editha complex (Mattoni et al 1997). The quino checkerspot has also been incorrectly referred to as Wright’s checkerspot (Euphydryas editha wrighti Gunder, 1929).
Adults usually fly from late-February to mid-April, during which time they mate and lay eggs. The eggs hatch about a week and a half later and the larvae begin feeding. The larvae may use either dwarf plantain (Plantago erecta) or exserted Indian paintbrush (Castilleja exserta spp. exerta; also called purple owl’s clover), both of which may be common in meadows and upland sage scrub/chapparal habitat. These plants are annuals which die back in the summer and the larvae thus have a period of summer diapause during which they do not feed. In the late winter and early spring, as the plants appear again, the larvae commence feeding again and then enter a short pupal phase. Because of their dependence on annual hostplants that dry up and senecse, pre-diapause larvae are the stage most susceptible to mortality. It is vital that newly hatched larvae locate a hostplant rapidly.
This life history is similar to that of the bay checkerspot (Euphydryas editha bayensis). It has been shown experimentally that nectar feeding by adult bay checkerspot females is important in maximizing egg production. Adult quino checkerspots nectar primarily on annuals (their flight period is too early in the season for most perennials to be in bloom) including goldfields (Lasthenia sp.), cryptantha (Cryptantha sp.), gilia (Gilia sp.), linanthus (Linanthus sp.), and trefoil (Lotus sp.).
The quino checkerspot once thrived in the entire area from the Santa Monica Mountains south to the northern parts of Baja California. There are now only six known U.S. populations in southwestern Riverside and San Diego counties, and one population near Tecate, Mexico.
The major threat is loss and modification of habitat due to development, grazing, and changes in fire regimes. In addition, the wildfires that ravaged much of the area around San Diego during 2003 burnt many areas of quino checkerspot habitat. It is not known what the long term impact of these will be on the butterfly’s populations.
Conservation priorities are stated in the draft recovery plan: “Immediate protection and management of the habitats that support the species, initiation of a captive propagation program, and development of the monitoring scheme and research agenda will be necessary to prevent extinction.”
Too little is known of the butterfly’s habitat needs and population dynamics to be able to design appropriate reserves and prepare a management program. Research should also be focused on the impacts and recovery from the San Diego fires of 2003.
Longcore, T., D. D. Murphy, D. Deutschman, R. Redak, and R. Fisher. 2003. A Management and Monitoring Plan for Quino Checkerspot Butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino) and its Habitats in San Diego County; Advisory Report to the County of San Diego (Accessed 9/23/08).
Mattoni, R., G. F. Pratt, T. R. Longcore, J. F. Emmel, and J. N. George. 1997. The endangered quino Checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas editha quino (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 34: 99-118. (Accessed 9/23/08).
Orsak, L. J. 1978. The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Published by the Center for Pathobiology, University of California, Irvine, with updates added by Peter Bryant.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Threatened and Endangered Species System; Species Profile: Quino Checkerspot (Accessed 4/18/05)
NatureServe Explorer (Accessed 9/23/08)
University of California at Berkeley; Essig Museum of Entomology: California’s Endangered Insects: Quino Checkerspot (Accessed 9/23/08)
San Diego Natural History Museum; Field Guide: Euphydryas editha quino, Quino Checkerspot (Accessed 9/23/08)
Black, S. H., and D. M. Vaughan. 2005. Species Profile: Euphydryas editha quino. In Shepherd, M. D., D. M. Vaughan, and S. H. Black (Eds). Red List of Pollinator Insects of North America. CD-ROM Version 1 (May 2005). Portland, OR: The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation