On this page I want to explain the most frequent methods in a very short way and give some basic Information how to use the two search-fields on the website in the left box.


All photos origin from the author of the website (Wolfgang Wagner) - except those where there is an explicite other photo author given in the caption of the image.

Photos are most often indicated with one of the three following shortcuts:

[N]: Image taken in the field without manipulation.

[M]: Image taken in the habitat, but manipulated, e.g. larva placed on a better photographable surface if it originally rested not well photographable, shelter artificially opened etc.

[S]: Image taken not in the original habitat but e.g. at home, in a garden, generally under rearing conditions etc.

Effective use of the search function on the website

If you search a certain species, the search field "search species" is the fastest possibility. If you know the scientific species name, you should use it preferably. The genus name is less suitable because this changes from paper to paper in some extreme cases. But this function can be sometimes also applied for synonyms - if they are inserted in the database. For example "Graellsia" will be successful despite the wished species isabellae is listed under the genus Actias.

The second field "Search full text" also finds species names, but additionally searches in the complete species texts and allied image subtitles. You can fill in, for example, "Fuerteventura" and will receive a list with all species where this text is contained. So you are able to create species lists, but of course only with species included to this website. Analogous you may fill in "Quercus" and receive all species where this search matches (probably in most cases in the section "Host plant").


Nomenclature and systematics show the actual state of the art in science and are thus changing permanently. If these changes reflect new and important recognitions, this development is correct and important. But unfortunately, often small new recognitions of the systematics result in major upheavals in nomenclature. For ecologists, this is not so important because they only want to have a stable name to communicate with each other. Especially as many changes are debatably even among systematical scientists.

For this website it is the question whether the effort to keep all taxonomical changes up to date is justifiable. I think no in those cases where there are only rearrangements or genus changes. On the other hand, this is important in the case of the splitting of species which have formerly been regarded as one species because otherwise it would not be clear to which species the data belong.

To summarize, nomenclature (especially on family level) on this website is not always up to date respectively it is updated only in longer intervals. As an example I want to mention the species that used to belong to the Arctiidae, Lymantriidae and parts of the Noctuidae and are nowadays subsumed to the new Family of Erebidae (all Arctiidae, Lymantriidae and the former quadrifine Noctuidae).

Field methods

My preferential target is to find the larvae of the Lepidoptera in the field because you obtain then much more ecological information than from mere imago observations. Because I do not execute active light capturing myself (seldom on enlighted buildings etc.), I know moths in the first place from their preimaginal stages. Mostly, I am rearing the encountered caterpillars (at least those of species that are new to me) to the imago. Only relative seldom I execute exo ovo rearings or even breedings, for example when I find a female by chance or via exchange. I think that such ex ovo breedings are much less interesting than the search for caterpillars and results in much less ecological information.

Suitable methods for searching larvae are the following:
  • Visual search during the day
    Here you will need askilled eye, but then you can encounter many species that sit more or less openly on their host plants such as Cucullia sp. At bushes or trees, you can reverse twigs because many larvae will sit underneath the leaves.
  • "Intensified" visual search in the daylight
    Admittedly quite strenuous, but one of my favourite methods is the advanced search in the grass- and herblayer. Here you carefully search, for example, the base of hassocks, an activity which often results in larvae of Satyrinae and Noctuidae. Similar is to disaggregate dense, low-growing herbs with the hand. Mostly, the caterpillers will drop to the ground where they are often raltive conspicuous according to the surface. Moreover, you can rake into the soil around plants with feeding patterns which often results in species such as Agrotis or Euxoa.
  • Searching with a lamp at night
    This also is a relative rare activity of myself. It can be quite successful especially in spring because of the night activity of many caterpillars (eg. Noctuidae like Polyphaenis sericata or Satyrinae like Erebia).
  • Beating
    Beating e.g. with a stick and an umbrella is one of the most successful methods to obtain larvae from bushes or trees, but can also be executed in higer grass or herb layers. Here you press the umprella to the ground and beat the surrounding vegetation into the umbrella. A disadvantage is, that you often will have no exact idea on which plant the larva sat.
  • Collecting plant material
    This is a special method for special cases. So it is the most convenient method in order to obtain Hadena-species. You collect the flowers an early fruits of Silene and Dianthus and shake them out after days. The larvae will drop to the surface. With this method, you should draw attention not to damage the habitat and not to collect to many flowers (especially in small habitats). This method can be also applied to some other groups, e.g. Panermia tenebrata.

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