PFG to Moths of Western North America

Yes, I’m doing it again! Due to either popular demand or a temporary lapse in sanity, I’ll be tackling the third and final volume of the Peterson Field Guides to Moths series – this one for Western North America.

The book will be similar in style and scope to the previous two installments. Moths will be shown on full-colour plates in natural resting positions, rather than pinned, and will be accompanied by brief descriptions and life history information to help with identifications. As always, the familiar Peterson arrow system will highlight useful field marks on the plates.

Unlike both the previous volumes, which treated a quarter of the continent each, this book will cover the entire West, from about the 100th meridian (which Tragically Hip fans will know is where the Great Plains begin; though more true for Canada than the US). The primary reasoning for not doing the West in quarters, as the East was done, is due to the longitudinal ecoregions created by the mountains – because of the way we create our range maps, there would be a lot of redundancy in producing two guides.

The new guide is expected to be about the same length as the Southeastern guide – 1800-1850 species and roughly 650 pages. I’ll do my best to provide a good coverage of specialty species from the deserts. Maps will be provided for all but the smaller micromoths, which tend to have on average less available occurrence data.

It will just be me on board for this book; my co-author on the other two guides, David Beadle, had to bow out due to other commitments. I’ve asked for an extra year to complete all the work that needs to be done on this book, as a result. If I meet my deadlines and nothing goes awry (not always guaranteed, in publishing!) the Western moth guide should likely be released in fall 2022.

Species List

The first draft of the species list for the book can be found here. This is several hundred species longer than what will ultimately end up in the book. Species on this list were primarily selected based on range. Final species selection will largely depend on which species I can ultimately obtain guide-quality photos for. Other deciding factors will be available life-history data, how common and/or widespread they are, and, let’s be honest, visual appeal. Though this book is first and foremost an identification guide, it’s also an ambassador for the world of moths and I feel it’s important to include those really eye-catching species that serve as enticements to new enthusiasts.

If you have suggestions regarding the species list – species to include, or not, for any reason – feel free to email me to let me know.

Contributing photos

With so many species of moths in North America it is impossible for one person to photograph them all; even harder when travel is limited by small kids and budget. These guides simply couldn’t happen without the generous support of dozens of photographers from across the continent.

I will be soliciting photos once again for this Western moth guide. If you’re interested in contributing your images for use in the guide, I would love to hear from you!

Here are the image requirements for the book:

Format: JPG preferred, PNG is fine. Bulky file formats like TIFF discouraged. No RAW please.

Size: The moth in the image should be a minimum of 1000 pixels in the longest dimension for small micromoth species, 1500 pixels for medium-sized species, and 2000 pixels for large macromoths. Larger photos are happily accepted. If you have an image of a less-common species but it doesn’t meet these dimensions, submit it anyway; I can sometimes make it work. Images do not need to be the original straight-out-of-the-camera photo as long as they meet these minimum requirements.

Guide quality: Moths shown need to be in focus across the entire individual, and lighting should ideally be relatively even with no large areas of glare/reflection from flash. Moths should be presented square to the primary angle of observation (for flat species, this is from above; for tented, stilted, or other non-flat species, this is usually from the side). Images taken at an angle end up showing a distorted body/wing shape that’s difficult to correct for in Photoshop. Some scale wear is okay as long as it’s not extensive – this can be fixed in Photoshop. If only half of a symmetrical moth is perfect in lighting/focus/condition and the species is uncommon, feel free to submit the image anyway – I can use the half that’s good to fix the half that isn’t.

In-habitat photos: A small number of images of moths in their natural habitat will be used on title pages and chapter headers. If you have a good-quality photo of a moth being a moth in nature, feel free to include it with your submissions. The more eye-catching or unusual the species, the better. (No caterpillars, please.) These photos should be a minimum of 2500 pixels in the longest dimension for the full image (the moth itself can be smaller).

Editing: Don’t worry about doing any additional processing, cropping, or other editing on the photos. I will be doing a lot of this myself as I prepare the images for the book. If you’ve already done some for yourself when processing your photos, that’s absolutely fine to submit.

Submission: If you have ten or fewer photos to submit you can email them to me directly. If you have more than ten, please choose one of these methods to submit them to me.

Cloud sharing – Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.
iNaturalist – simply let me know your username
Flickr – organized into a separate folder/collection
Your website – organized clearly by taxonomy and the full-sized image easily accessible
Snail mail – on USB thumb drive only (my new laptop doesn’t have a DVD drive)

Cloud sharing is the easiest and cheapest option for everybody (unless your photo collection already exists on iNaturalist, Flickr or your personal website). All three of the above services offer free basic accounts, if you don’t already have one. If you’d like guidance or instructions on how to use these services I’m happy to provide help.

I would be incredibly grateful if your photos are somehow labeled with ID. This could be in the file label itself, or by sorting the images into labelled file folders. This makes it significantly easier for me to find and sort through the photos available for each species. You’re welcome to use any of P3 #, Hodges #, or scientific name in the label; however, if using only scientific name, please make sure you’re using the latest classification (otherwise I get confused and photos get lost or missed).

Compensation: All photo contributors will received a free copy of the finished book, regardless of how many of your images were used. Unfortunately, just as with the previous books, the budget is quite small for this guide and I’m unable to offer any financial compensation – with potentially as many as 2000 photos to solicit, even a modest payment would quickly become unaffordable. However, anyone who contributes more than 100 photos to the book will receive a special as-yet-TBD gift in thanks. (For the last book it was this mug.)

Please reach out to me at if you’re interested in contributing photos to the book.

If you’re submitting by Cloud service, please send the share invite to

Contributing data

New research and data on moths is constantly being published, but I strive to make the guides as up-to-date as possible prior to being printed. If you have some recent research or studies that you think would be useful to this book, feel free to reach out with it!

You can send me a pdf of your paper or a summary of the research findings; I have a biology degree so have experience reading scientific papers, but the easier you can make it for me to access the relevant information, the more grateful I’ll be.

Manuscript review

I strive to ensure all of the data and identifications presented in the book are accurate, but with a project of this scope it’s practically a guarantee that some errors will make it in. I will be looking for experts to help me review IDs, maps and species accounts. If you’re interested in lending your time and skill in this area, I’d love to have your help! As with the photos, I can’t offer financial compensation, but you would receive a free copy of the finished book and a fun moth-themed thank-you gift. Email me to let me know your availability, experience and areas of expertise.