Panoquina errans

Wandering Skipper

The wandering skipper is a coastal skipper that flies where host saltgrass grows, from around Santa Barbara south to Baja. The brown coloration and cream markings are distinctive in its habitats, so identification shouldn't be an issue. I first saw it around Newport Bay at flowers, and since then have seen them at San Onofre and Bolsa Chica. When I think of where to go for butterflies, I don't often think of the beach, but there are several rarities all along our coast, in places both rugged and otherwise. And because the coastline has both sensitive habitat and some of the most valuable real estate and most-used recreational sites, any butterfly trying to survive there is going to have issues. As a larval food choice, saltgrass seems to be a good one, doing well enough in a lot of coastal habitats, so perhaps this skipper has a long-term future.

According to various accounts of the immature stages (inc. Dyar's and Comstock's excerpted below), eggs are laid singly on the upperside of a blade of grass near the base of the blade, and larvae feed mostly at night over seven instars. Very cryptic on the grass blades, they will pupate on the plant.

Panoquina errans - Wandering Skipper
Panoquina errans - the wandering skipper - at San Onofre State Beach on July 14, 2008.
Panoquina errans - Wandering Skipper
Panoquina errans again at San Onofre on July 14, 2008. I found them in one small patch along the shore where saltgrass was healthy and green.
Panoquina errans - Wandering Skipper
Another wandering skipper at San Onofre State Beach on July 14, 2008.
Panoquina errans - Wandering Skipper
Upper Newport Bay Ecological Preserve is a great place to find wandering skippers. April 10, 2007.
Original description of Panoquina errans - Wandering Skipper
Henry Skinner named this butterfly in 1892 in the Entomological news, and proceedings of the Entomological Section of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. That article was followed by a life history by Harrison Dyer.
Life cycle of Panoquina errans - Wandering Skipper
A bit more was known when John A. Comstock wrote this account in 1930 in Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences. His colleague, Charles Dammers, excelled at illustrating the pre-adult stages of butterflies he reared. It should be clear from these accounts that the life cycle of grass skippers is a challenge to observe and document.

©Dennis Walker