Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve
Lepidoptera Survey

Prof. Jerry A. Powell
Essig Museum of Entomology, U.C. Berkeley

Euscrobipalpa arenaceariella female dark form (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae). The young larvae of this species mine in the soft leaves of mugwort Artemisia douglasiana. As they get larger they emerge and fold a leaf edge to make a shelter. Inside the shelter they skeletonize the leaf. This is a new species found during the survey.


 return to Big Creek home page

 return to fauna page

 return to resources page

lepidoptera species checklist

butterfly species checklist
  butterfly species checklist (excel file)

Lepidoptera Survey

In the early 1980's, UC Berkeley entomologist Prof. Jerry Powell began a survey to assess the biological diversity of Lepidoptera, the insect order which includes moths and butterflies. The survey evolved into an ambitious effort to inventory all the species found within the reserve's principal habitats, and encompassed over 200 collecting dates between 1980 and 1995. A wide variety of survey techniques were employed, with the aim of sampling the complete diversity of the order. Prof. Powell assembled a database of over 14,000 collection records, and has assembled an additional list of species' rearings and host plant records. Finally, he has prepared a checklist including an estimated 994 species, which is available as an excel file and may be downloaded here. Some of the findings are summarized in Prof. Powell's article Big Creek Reserve Lepidoptera Survey: Recovery of Populations after the 1985 Rat Creek Fire in Views of a Coastal Wilderness: 20 Years of Research at Big Creek Reserve available at the reserve.

Post-fire Recovery

The Rat Creek fire burned the entire reserve in 1985, allowing Prof. Powell to examine the progress of recovery of the lepidoptera fauna. Based on data summarized in the article cited above, Prof. Powell estimates that recery was over 95% complete after 7 years.

Annual 4th of July Butterfly Count

In 1989 the reserve began participating in the Annual 4th of July Butterfly Count, an international event organized by the North American Butterfly Association. In the first week of June each year, Prof. Powell, reserve manager John Smiley and several volunteers walk the reserve, counting and identifying every butterfly they see. They record and talley the observations on a species checklist, keeping track of the location of the sighitngs within the reserve. The results are submitted to NABA who publish the count results every spring.