Moths of California

General Description:

We invite you to join with Paul Opler and Jerry Powell for an informal introduction to field techniques for studying and observing moths. Emphasis will be on collecting and processing adult specimens and recording observations based on the techniques described in our book, Moths of Western North America. We will also demonstrate collection of larvae, provide some discussion of 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 this first-time presentation will be mainly about sampling of moth diversity including trapping specimens for study.

Workshop size will be limited to 12. A moderate amount of walking will be involved. There may some driving on dirt 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 several hundred thousand 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 11 years. Both Jerry and Paul have collected moths in the area in previous years [see partial list on SFSU-SNFC web site. Evi Buckner-Opler has a digital camera and will answer questions or demonstrate its use in the field.

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. On Saturday, we’ll demonstrate sorting of light trap samples in the lab, techniques for pinning and spreading moths, and discuss methods of larval rearing. We’ll go afield on Saturday afternoon and search for diurnal moths and try larval sampling. On Sunday morning we can examine larval collections and preservation techniques, and, time permitting, additional field techniques. The workshop will end after lunch on Sunday.

Supplies and Other Useful Items

Supply List

  • Small pocket notebook
  • Notebook for more permanent notes [we will provide].
  • Aerial insect net if you have one. *BQ 7112NA A few will be available for use. [optional]
  • Insect specimen box *BQ 1109 [optional]
  • Insect pins, size #1 and #2 *BQ 1208B #1, #2
  • Spreading board(s) *BQ 1023E or 1022B &/or D [some are available for temporary use]
  • Forceps for sorting trap samples *BQ 4735 [optional]
  • Camera suitable for close-ups [optional]
  • *Note insect equipment may be ordered from BioQuip, Inc. at Also note 1138P if you have no equipment and plan to continue this activity after the workshop.

Personal gear

  • sunscreen
  • sweatshirt or light jacket
  • sturdy footwear
  • flashlight
  • insect repellant
  • alarm clock
  • tents with beds are provided at the field campus

Suggested Reading

  • J.A. Powell and P.A. Opler. 2009. Suggestions for observing and studying moths. In: Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles. Available from University of California Press, BioQuip, Inc., or

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

Contact for questions about needed materials.

Click here for printer friendly Version

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