Pyrgus ruralis ruralis

Two-banded Checkered Skipper

There are two subspecies of ruralis in southern California: nominate ruralis and lagunae, and they look quite different. The former is darker in aspect, with smaller white patches dorsally. But there is no danger of misidentification, since the endangered Laguna Mountain skipper only flies in a few meadows at Palomar Mountain in San Diego Co. and is being reintroduced in the Lagunas.

I found this skipper at a wet area along the Sherman Pass Road near the high meadows there. According to Ken Davenport's helpful "Emmel Update",* ruralis is "widespread" on the Kern Plateau above 7000' elevation. His other location for it is much lower in elevation: Lopez Canyon, southeast of San Luis Obispo. It flies earlier there, naturally: late March to May, but June to mid-July on the Kern Plateau. Larval food plants in southern California probably include several species of Horkelia, in the Rosaceae family. To the north it also uses Potentilla drummondii.

* Butterflies of southern California in 2018: updating Emmel and Emmel's 1973 Butterflies of southern California, available online here (as of Dec. 2023).

Two-banded Checkered-Skipper - Pyrgus ruralis ruralis
One of the first fliers east of Sherman Pass ca. 8400' elevation this season was the two-banded checkered skipper, Pyrgus ruralis ruralis. May 15, 2014.
Two-banded Checkered-Skipper - Pyrgus ruralis ruralis
Same individual. These are very small - nearly the size of scriptura.

©Dennis Walker