Annotated list of California Microlepidoptera

by Jerry A. Powell & Y.-F. Hsu

December 1998 (revised March 2004)


About 1998, in anticipation of a database of the Lepidoptera known to occur in California, I began to develop a list of the microlepidoptera. We compiled this over a several year period through 1994, and I updated all taxa through 1998. This is a resource I have needed as a background to biological studies and local inventories, but it did not rise on the priority list after retirement. The list is considered to be a work in progress, and this version is a table in WordPerfect 9. I don't know if it will be incorporated into a database, and/or published eventually, but it will continue to be available on the internet at:

The list contains about 1,780 species, of which 1,355 (76%) are described, the remainder have been recognized by specialists as undescribed. In addition, 23 (2%) described species are included but considered to be of questionable or doubtful residence in California, designated by an asterisk (*). Among resident species, at least 70 (5%) are known or believed to be introduced from other regions.

Taxa included: All the primitive clades (represented by numbers 1-26 in the MONA Check List), the "lower" Ditrysia (numbers 261-3863 in MONA Checklist), and the Pterophoridea (numbers 6089-6234).

Literature Sources: The list is supposed to be complete for valid species that have type localities in California. We used a biology bibliography file in the Essig Museum of Entomology (EME) that included all North American microlepidoptera to the time of the MONA Check List (Hodges et al. 1983, which included literature through about 1980 for most taxa). Type localities were abstracted from a wide range of journal and monographic literature by several students in the 1960s and 1970s, in part sponsored by NSF funding. I have tried to include all subsequent newly described species that provide California records.

We also searched major monographic works for California records of species described from type localities outside the state, but we have not searched journal articles systematically for such records, and no doubt there are some species we have missed.

Collection Sources: We include records of validly identified species in California even if not published. Most of these are from the EME, a few from the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco (CAS), Los Angeles County Natural History Museum (LACM), and National Museum of Natural History (USNM). We welcome data from other institutions or private collections, if the identification sources are unequivocal.

Synonymies: We have not repeated most synonymies from the MONA checklist, but synonyms having California type localities are included when they help document the occurrence of species in California.

Format: The goal is to verify every species that occurs in California, either by the type locality, or by later published or specimen records, but we do not try to summarize distributions within the state. The left hand column lists the taxa (family, genus and species, with authors). The middle column lists type localities in California or regions (e.g. state) for extralimital type localities. For the latter species, either a publication reference or an indication of the geographical occurrence in CA as documented by specimens is listed in the right hand column. The references are not necessarily the earliest report in California; usually they are the most comprehensive, detailed, or most recent I have seen. For example, Greya politella, which was described from Oregon, has been reported several times in California, most recently with detailed data by Davis et al. 1991, so that is cited.


Genus Author, date

Generic synonomy

species Author

species sysonymy

type localities references and notes

Collaborators: After a draft of the list was compiled, sections treating individual taxa, such as a superfamily, were submitted to several specialists, who assisted by updating nomenclature, adding species we had overlooked, and in some cases adding specimen records known to them. They are listed as collaborators under the headings for the appropriate taxa.

Annotations: I have added comments in square brackets [ ] to clarify type localities, taxonomic status, larval host plants, etc., where these correct errors in literature cited or help establish the status of undescribed species. There are of course a great many additional undescribed species in collections, for which the status has not been determined by contemporary taxonomists, and these are omitted.


DRD - D.R. Davis
De B. - J. A. De Benedictis
DLW - D. L. Wagner
F. - Fabricius
JAP - J. A. Powell
L. - Linnaeus
Newt. Wilk. - Newton Wilkinson
PAO - P.A. Opler
Wlsm. - Walsingham

Brit. Co. - British Columbia
CA - California and U.S. Postal Service abbreviation for all other states
C. Costa - Contra Costa
Co. - County
Cr. - Creek
Cyn. - Canyon
Gr. Brit. - Great Britain (United Kingdom)
I(s). - Island(s)
L. A. - Los Angeles
Lk. - Lake
Mont. - Monterey
Mtn(s). - Mountain(s)
Mt. - Mount
Nat., Natl. - National
nr. - near
S. - San
S. D. - San Diego
S or so. - south or southern
San Berdo. - San Bernardino
S.L.O. - San Luis Obispo
Spr. - Spring(s)
Sta. - Station
Sta.(Barbara, Catalina etc.) - Santa
Vy. - Valley
widespr. - widespread (e.g. half or more the latitude of CA)

Institutions & misc.:
CAS - California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
EME - Essig Museum of Entomology (UC Berkeley)
ID - Identified, Identification
introd. - introduced
LACM - Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
misid. - misidentified
n. sp. - new species
r.f. - reared from
UC(B) - University of California (Berkeley)
USNM - U.S. National Museum of Natural History
vic. - vicinity

Completion and updating of the list: Users may participate by providing the following:

1) Species known to you to occur in California that we have overlooked. I need to know either the published reference or the name of the taxonomist who identified the specimen and the collection where it is deposited. I am sure the list is incomplete for taxa that have not been monographed recently.

2) Correction of older names reported in the literature that apply to species we cite by obsolete names.

3) Identities of included species that you consider doubtful, based on misidentifications in the literature or in collections.