Moths of California

General Description:

We invite you to join with Paul Opler and Jerry Powell for an introduction to field techniques for studying and observing moths. The Yuba Pass region has an estimated moth fauna of about 2000 species ranging from tiny leaf-miners to the large Ceanothus Silkmoth and several Sphinx moths. Emphasis will be on collecting or observation and photography of a diversity of moths. Depending on the workshop make-up we’ll engage in several activities based on the techniques described in the appendix to our book, Moths of Western North America. Workshop particpants will learn about the collection of caterpillars (larvae), engage in photography, and observe moths at light sheets, The workshop is recommended for persons interested in moths or those studying insect/plant relationships, or managing biodiversity conservation. We do not require participants to collect, but our workshops usually involve sampling of moth diversity including trapping specimens for study.

Workshop size will be limited to 12. A moderate amount of walking may be involved. There may be some driving short distances on Forest Service roads.


Jerry Powell, Paul OPler and Evi Buckner-Opler

Jerry Powell and Paul Opler are authors of Moths of Western North America. Jerry is Professor of the Graduate School in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California at Berkeley. For many years he served as Director of the California Insect Survey and E.O. Essig Museum of Entomology. He has conducted intensive surveys of California moths, especially Microlepidoptera, for more than 50 years, including coastal sand dunes, the Big Creek university reserve in coastal Monterey County, and the California Channel Islands. He is an internationally recognized scientist and has published a number of books and many scientific papers. Paul is Professor in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management at Colorado State University. He also serves as Assistant Director of the C.P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity where he curates a collection of a half million moths and butterflies. Paul has written several field guides on butterflies and studied Microlepidoptera of California oaks. Paul and wife Evi have taught Butterflies of the Sierra Nevada for SFSU in the Yuba Pass region for the past 16 years. Both Jerry and Paul have collected moths in the area in previous years [see partial list on SFSU-SNFC web site.

Class Schedule

Plan to arrive at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus shortly after 1:00 PM on Friday. In the afternoon we will have informal discussion and observations after checking in and unpacking. We plan meet after dinner [~8 pm] and set up a light sheet, and pheromone and blacklight traps. After dark we will look at moths coming in to a light sheet with mercury vapor light. The order of topic coverage may vary, but we’ll discuss identification of moths to family, demonstrate sorting of light trap samples in the lab, techniques for pinning and spreading moths, and discuss methods of larval collection and rearing. We’ll go afield on Saturday afternoon and search for diurnal moths and try larval sampling. On Sunday morning we can examine and sort larval collections and discuss preservation techniques; time permitting, we’ll delve into additional field techniques. The workshop will end after lunch on Sunday.

Supplies and Other Useful Items

Supply List

Camping gear


Although days are generally warm, or even hot at lower elevations, be prepared for temperatures as low as freezing at night. Variable weather clothing that may be layered is best. Long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, warm sweater and jacket, t-shirt and shorts or skirt, tennis shoes or hiking boots, sun hat, rain gear, and a warm hat or gloves for cold weather or night activities.


Suggested Reading

Dr. Opler will have several copies of this reference for purchase at the time of the workshop.

Contact paulopler@comcast.netfor questions about needed materials.