Laguna Mountain Skipper

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Laguna Mountain Skipper
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Hesperiidae
Genus: Pyrgus
Species: P. ruralis
Subspecies: P. r. lagunae
Trinomial name
Pyrgus ruralis lagunae
Scott, 1981

The Laguna Mountains Skipper (Pyrgus ruralis lagunae) is a butterfly of the Hesperiidae family. It is a subspecies of Pyrgus ruralis.


The Laguna Mountain Skipper is a small, black and white checkered insect belonging to the Hesperiidae family, Skipper (butterfly). This small, endangered species has a wingspan of about 1 inch (3 cm) and a fast, erratic flight pattern. It is found only in Southern California, occupying areas of high elevation in the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego, California. Phenotype differences between males and females represented by more white coloration of wings of males compared to that of females. This species is one of two sub-species of the rural skipper, Pyrgus Ruralis. The other species, Pyrgus ruralis ruralis, occupies a much larger range stretching from British Columbia to Central California.


The Laguna Mountain Skipper is an endemic species of Southern California. This species is found mostly in wet montane meadows, reaching altitudes of approximately 4,000 to 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in yellow pine forests of the Laguna Mountains and Palomar Mountain. The two population areas vary in species richness. The Laguna Mountains is thought to have 1 single population while Palomar Mountain is thought to have 4 separate populations. The largest population size being 100 and 250 individuals respectively for each location. The larval host plant, Cleveland's Horkelia Horkelia clevelandii, can be found under yellow pines in rocky soil and is primarily responsible for larval nourishment/survival. Larval development has been found on sticky cinquefoil Potentilla gladulosa, but is rare. Additionally adults rely heavily on the nectar from the Cleveland's Horkelia Horkelia clevelandii for nourishment. Range, distributions, and population densities of the Laguna Mountain skippers are directly related to availability/population size of Cleveland's Horkelia Horkelia clevelandii.

Life cycle[edit]

Adults have 2 flight seasons each year, one in mid-spring and the other in late summer. Females lay their eggs on the understory of the Horkelia clevelandii outer leaves. Eggs take 12–14 days to hatch and about seven weeks for larva to reach full adult maturity.

Population decline[edit]

The Laguna Mountain Skipper's population decline is credited mostly to habitat destruction. Having a single larval host plant makes reproduction difficult if the Cleveland's Horkelia Horkelia clevelandii population encounter environmental stochasticity [1]. Habitat destruction and degradation is primarily associated with urban and agricultural development as well as recreational activities. Most common degradation is affiliated with overgrazing and trampling of the Cleveland's Horkelia Horkelia clevelandii by cattle leading to fragmentation, Habitat fragmentation, of Habitat (ecology). Due to their small,sensitive population size, any manipulation/disturbance to skipper habitat has large impacts on skipper populations. Additionally, the Cleveland's Horkelia Horkelia clevelandii see population declines during dry season leading to Laguna Mountain Skipper population decline. Because the Laguna Mountain Skipper has no known predators, changes in population size is a direct result of habitat manipulation or environmental stochasticity. Furthermore, over collection of Laguna Mountain Skipper populations by scientists pose as a potential threat to population size.

The Laguna Mountain Skipper was listed a federal endangered species on January 17, 1997. The California Endangered Species Act does not allow listing of insects, but the California Department of Fish and Game include it on their Special Animals list. January 2007 saw the Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service designate a critical habitat for the Laguna Mountain Skipper. Critical habitat is defined as specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing and specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species if the agency determines that the area itself is essential for conservation. Approximately 6,242 acres (25.26 km2) in Southern California were designated critical habitat. This habitat is located under Federal, State, and private ownership. Protection of habitat is crucial for successful conservation activity. No effects on the Laguna Mountains Skipper populations have been seen since the addition of this critical habitat.


  • Black, S. H., and D. M. Vaughan. 2005. Species Profile: Pyrgus ruralis lagunae. 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.
  • DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service

5OCFR Part 17 RINIOI8—AC84 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Rule To List the Laguna Mountains Skipper and Oulno Checkerspot Butterflies as Endangered


Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 RIN 1018–AC84 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Endangered Status for the Laguna Mountains Skipper and Quino Checkerspot Butterfly


Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 RIN 1018-AU50 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants Designation of Critical Habitat for the Laguna Mountains Skipper

External links[edit]