Photos thanks to Tom Murray

Butterflies of the Sierra Nevada

General Description:

The Sierra Nevada is rich in butterflies, and the Yuba Pass area is no exception. As many as 70 species of butterflies may be found on a single day by visiting 3 or 4 locations in a sequence of elevations. More than 100 species of butterflies have been located from the lower elevations near Camptonville over the pass to near Graeagle, including the campus itself... see Butterfly List

We will study the ecology, behavior, life zones, flower visitation, and life history of the area's butterflies in several elevational habitats. The instructor will use non-lethal means to study the butterflies, including netting, placing live butterflies in small containers, followed by their release; observation with close-focusing binoculars; and close-up photography. The goal will be for you to familarize yourself with the butterfly species seen during class trips and to learn about butterflies of different families and to understand their behavior, and ecological place in the environment. You should be able to stalk and study butterflies as well as to take recognizable photos.

Evening or morning slide talks will supplement the course by including topics such as intorduction to butterflies, local butterfly identification, western endangered species conservation, Monarch life history and tagging studies, butterfly gardening, and moth diversity and biology.

"We will take short hikes, but on one or two days they may be a bit rigorous. Many of our trips are on dirt roads, and particpants may be asked to drive or car-pool."


Dr. Paul Opler and Evi Buckner

Paul A. Opler is an internationally known entomologist and conservationist. He has authored more than 150 articles and 6 books including the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies, Peterson Field Guide to Western Butterflies, Peterson First Guide to Butterflies and Moths, Butterflies East and West , a coloring and activity book on butterflies of National Parks and refuges, and videos about Butterfly Gardening and Butterflies for Beginners. Paul and his wife Evi bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, enthusiasm and artistry to each class. Their butterfly and moth images can also be seen at the Butterflies and Moths of North America website and the Children' Butterfly Site.

Class Schedule

The class will meet at 9:00 AM on Monday, but at 8:00 on the other days.

Supplies and Other Useful Items


Notebook, pens, daypack, water bottle or canteen, sturdy shoes, hiking boots, hat, sunscreen, repellent,35mm camera or digital camera or video cam with macro capability and sufficient film (optional)Close focusing binoculars (6-9 feet) (optional) Butterfly net (optional) [instructor will have 5 or 6 available]

Suggested Reading

  • Kaufman Focus Guide, Butterflies of North America,2003, by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman. Order at Amazon
  • The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. John Muir Laws. Heyday Books. A richly illustrated guide to a full range of Sierra plants, animals, fungi, and more. Order at HeyDay Books

The names used will be based on the above two books. The instructor will have copies of Brock and Kaufman as well as other books and videos for purchase.

Optional Grades

Anyone may audit the course or take it credit/no credit. If you need a grade it will be based on your field notes, active attendance, and a short paper will be required.

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