Moth Collecting and Curation Techniques

 You are visitor number   since 25 April 2002 

Compiled by Bruce Walsh, at the Department of Ecology and Evolution Biology and the Center for Insect Science of the University of Arizona.

Back to the Moths of SE Arizona website


Helpful on-line tools

  1. Global Lepidoptera Names Index . A spectacular resource from London's Natural History Museum. Enter a name, and an imagine of the extensive card catologues of items such as location of time, where figures can be found, etc. displayed for most of the worlds leps!
  2. Zoological Record
  3. HOSTS a database of the hostplants of the world's Lepidoptera. Another outstanding job from the fine folks at London's Natural History Museum.
  4. Nearctica North America Lepidoptera database. Basically, MONA on line.
  5. Link to the CFS Northern Forestry Centre Biodiversity site. which contains a downloadable file of the Checklist of Microlepidoptera of North America. Thanks to all the fine folks up in the great white north!
  6. Web Images of North American Moth Species from John Snyder at Furman University.
  7. Bob Patterson's Western Moth Plates. Basically, field-guide style plates of many western moths.
  8. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera
  9. Macromoths of Northwest Forests and Woodlands by Jeffrey C. Miller and Paul C. Hammond
  10. Opler's Moths of North America site


Here's the current list of techniques posted. I'm always interested in posting more and will be happy to post yours! Just email me at

  1. Tomas Mustelin's "Kitty litter" light trap -- an easy to make and very portable lack light trap for moth collecting.
  2. Biological Survey of Canada's label data standards for terrestrial arthropods
  3. Rapid drying of spread material
  4. A number of helpful tips from Tony Thomas
  5. Jim Troubridge's quick and easy de-greasing process (forwarded by Gary Anweiler)
  6. Cliff Ferris' light box for photographing spread material
  7. Shoestring-Budget mercury vapor collecting lamp construction (from Joel Szymczyk, Las Cruces NM)
  8. Building cabinets to house California Academy or Cornell drawers (from Kelly Richers)
  9. powerpoint file on various spreading methods from Utah Lepidoptera Society member Vernon Evans. (about 2MB)
  10. BioQuip's new self-supporting collecting sheet
  11. Notes on Mercury Vapor Setups for Moth Collecting

Quick and dirt tips


  • Poor generator performance over 8000 feet? I have had trouble in the past running my Kawasaki 400 w generator at altitudes above 8000 feet. It would require frequent cleaning/changing of the spark plug to keep it running. I mentioned this at the repair shop when it was serviced and they knew immediately how to correct it. It seems that there are special plugs designed for running at high elevations. These plugs are used by many ATV riders and should be available at motorcycle shops. Just ask for a 'hot' plug. I have found it works just as well at lower elevations, so I have switched permanently to the hot plug. (Posted 6 May 2003, from Stuart Wilson,

  • Stalling of a Honda EU 1000 generation? While I think the EU 1000 is perhaps the best generator for MV collection, it has the odd habit be being VERY sensitive to the level of oil. If it is a drop to low, it will simply stop. You can wait a few minutes and then start it up again, but it will run a few minutes and then stop on you., I avoid this by always backing one of those plastic squeeze bottles with the drip top, allowing easy topping off of oil when needed. This is a real life saver if you are 10 hours from home!

    Rapid Drying of Spread Material

    I use small Styrofoam and balsa wood spreading blocks for my material,

    I then place these on a cookie sheet, and set in the oven for 2-4 hours at 150 degrees F (66 degrees C). AVOID USING HIGHER TEMPERATURES!! Styrofoam melts around 200-250 F (93 - 120 C).

    A simple method for getting moth wings exactly equal on the setting board

    From: Tony Thomas (

    I cover all my setting boards with graph paper using 3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive. Simply spray a sheet of graph paper and apply it to the board. It's important to keep the paper lined up with the length and width of the board. Also, completely cover the entire board including the groove with the graph paper. When the adhesive has dried - I leave mine overnight - use a sharp blade to cut out the paper that is over the groove. The result is a smooth paper surface with guide lines that allow the right and left wings to be aligned to the nearest mm or better. This may be a common practice but I have never seen this method "published".

    I tend to use "inch" paper for the larger boards (as in the image), each square is 1/10" x 1/10". For the smaller boards I use "cm" paper.