Quino Checkerspot Butterfly

Euphydryas editha quino

Overview

The distribution and abundance of the Quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino) 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 editha to be listed under the Endangered Species Act (the bay checkerspot, Euphydryas editha bayensis, was the first).

Description

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.

Life History

Adults emerge in the early to mid-spring, 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), both of which may be common in meadows and upland sage scrub/chaparral habitat. These plants are annuals that 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. This life history is similar to that of the bay checkerspot (Euphydryas editha bayensis).

Distribution

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.

Conservation Status

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.

Conservation Needs

The draft recovery plan states: “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.”

Working with landowners

Insufficient information available at time of publication.

Education

Education sheets at zoological facilities (e.g. zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens with butterflies, butterfly houses, nature museums) or events at which BFCI partners participate are always a valuable way to get the word out on these imperiled butterflies. In addition to these, interpretive displays could be developed for BCFI partner institutions or a Quino checkerspot “roadshow” could be created and taken into local schools and other places in the community. At a time when many schools and other youth organizations are studying biodiversity and species extinctions using examples of charismatic megafauna or exotic creatures from the tropics, vulnerable species such as the Quino checkerspot provide an excellent opportunity to develop curricular materials with a direct link to the students’ home region. In addition to classroom studies and research tasks, there is the possibility of actually visiting the sites to see the butterflies, as well as talking to the scientists and land managers involved and taking a direct role in the species’ conservation.

Educational activities that school students and community members could do include:

  • Studies of butterfly (insect) life stages;
  • Research to identify the habitat needs;
  • Correspondance/discussions with the biologists managing current Quino checkerspot sites;
  • Site visits during adult flight season;
  • Visits to location of captive breeding programs;
  • Habitat management on site;
  • Propagation and growing of host plants for planting at butterfly sites or use in captive breeding programs; and
  • Writing letters to decision makers to ensure that the Quino checkerspot receives adequate resources and protection.

Research

The USFWS has developed a survey protocol for the Quino checkerspot (400KB pdf).

Captive Rearing

One of the goals of the draft recovery plan is to establish and maintain a captive breeding program.

Recovery Plan

Quino Checkerspot Butterfly Draft Recovery Plan (5.4MB pdf), January 2001. Federal Register: 66: 9592-9593. The January 2001 recovery plan for the Quino checkerspot is very detailed and has clear downlisting criteria. The overall objective is to downlist the Quino checkerspot from endangered to threatened and ensure the species’ long-term conservation.

Interim goals include: (1) protect habitat supporting known current population distributions (habitat complexes), (2) stabilize populations within the described habitat complexes, and (3) conduct research necessary to refine recovery criteria.

Downlisting Criteria:

  • Permanently protect habitat patches supporting known extant population distributions (habitat complexes) and possible landscape connectivity areas.
  • Permanently provide for and implement management of described habitat complexes to restore habitat quality, including maintenance of host plant populations, maintenance of diverse nectar sources and pollinators, control of nonnative plant invasion, and maintenance of internal landscape connectivity.
  • Establish and maintain a captive propagation program for purposes of re-introduction and augmentation of wild populations, maintenance of refugia populations, and research.
  • Initiate and implement a cooperative educational outreach program targeting areas where Quino checkerspot populations are most threatened.
  • Two additional populations or metapopulations must be documented or introduced in the remaining undeveloped coastal areas of the Quino checkerspot’s historic range.
  • The managed, protected population or metapopulation segments within currently described habitat complexes must demonstrate stability (constancy or resilience) without augmentation.
  • Conduct research including: determining the distribution of extant metapopulations; conducting preliminary modeling of metapopulation dynamics; investigating the function of hilltops as a resource for Quino checkerspot populations; investigating the contribution of multiple-year diapause to metapopulation stability; monitoring populations for further evidence of climate-driven range shifts; determining the effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen fertilization on the Quino checkerspot and its host plant; determining the magnitude of threats from over-collection and non-native natural enemies.

Recovery Priorities

The recovery plan includes three sets of recommendations for reaching downlisting goals.

Priority 1 recommendations:

  • Protect via acquisition, conservation easement, or other means and provide management in perpetuity to enhance habitat and stabilize populations within described habitat complexes. This includes protecting habitat within the habitat complexes and enhancing or restoring landscape connectivity between isolated habitat patches. It also includes erecting barriers to prevent dispersal from habitat patches into adjacent high-traffic surface roads and reducing off-road vehicle activity within the habitat complexes.
  • Continue yearly reviews, monitoring and augmentation until stable habitat complexes, populations, or metapopulations have been maintained for 15 years without augmentation. This may include augmenting the lowest density populations as needed to help establish stability.
  • Establish and maintain a captive propagation program using genetically diverse butterfly cultures in two separate facilities to provide butterflies for research, population augmentation, and re-introduction.

Priority 2 recommendations:

  • Initiate and implement an educational outreach program to inform the public about the biology of the Quino checkerspot and the ecological significance of its decline. This includes further cooperative outreach efforts with local nongovernmental organizations, educational institutions, and local museums and working with local high schools.
  • Conduct biological research needed to refine recovery criteria and guide conservation efforts.
  • Manage activity on trails where habitat occurs in recreational use areas, particularly during the active season for Quino checkerspot larvae and adults (i.e. November through May).
  • Locate or introduce two populations or metapopulations in the remaining undeveloped coastal areas of the Quino checkerspot’s historic range.
  • Reduce fire frequency and illegal trash dumping in habitat areas.

Priority 3 recommendations:

  • Survey for habitat and undocumented populations in undeveloped areas outside of Recovery Units.
  • Survey other areas within Recovery Units (not covered by surveys to determine the extent of metapopulation distributions) to determine whether there is suitable habitat or undocumented populations.
  • Enter into dialogue with Baja California, Mexico nongovernmental organizations and local governments. Discussion topics include beginning surveys to determine the extent of the Otay foothills, Marron Valley, and Jacumba habitat complex population distributions across the border, and discussing possible protective measures for all Mexican populations.
  • Enter into dialogue with the Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians. Discussion topics include investigating the extent of the Silverado habitat complex population distribution within the Cahuilla Indian Reservation and possible protective measures.

More Info

  • USFWS contact: Alison Anderson, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 2730 Loker Avenue West, Carlsbad, California, 92008. Phone (760) 431-9440.
  • Urban Wildlands Group, Inc.: Travis Longcore, P.O. Box 24020, Los Angeles, CA 90024-0020, Phone (310) 247-9719, longcore@urbanwildlands.org
  • Rudi Mattoni, UCLA. Phone (310) 825-3019, mattoni@ucla.edu

References

  • Mattoni, R., G.F. Pratt, T.R. Longcore, J.F. Emmel, and J.N. George, 1997. The endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly Euphydryas editha quino. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 34: 99-118.
  • Orsak, Larry 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.C. Berkeley, Essig Museum of Entomology. California’s Endangered Insects Quino Checkerspot page.
  • USFWS Quino Checkerspot resources.

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