What is BAMONA?

The Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) project is ambitious effort to collect and provide access to quality-controlled data about butterflies and moths for the continent of North America from Panama to Canada. The project is hosted by the Butterfly and Moth Information Network and is directed by Kelly Lotts and Thomas Naberhaus. Our goal is to fill the needs of scientists and nature observers by bringing verified occurrence and life history data into one accessible location.

BAMONA is a rich data source that grows daily. Citizen scientists of all ages and experience levels participate by taking photographs of butterflies and moths and then submitting their observations. Additional BAMONA data come from museum and personal collections, published literature, and professional lepidopterists. Quality control is provided by collaborating lepidopterists who serve as regional coordinators. Standardized data and metadata are stored in a database and accessible through the web site via checklists, species profiles, maps displaying point data, and other tools.


There is a growing need for easily accessible, digitized, reliable, and integrated species distribution data to support scientific research. BAMONA utilizes cutting-edge technology and a vast network of recreational and professional lepidopterists to help fill this need.

In recent years, research has indicated that butterflies and other species appear to be shifting their ranges in response to climatic change. Additionally, there is evidence that some butterflies are emerging earlier in the year; this altered timing of metamorphosis may indicate ecosystem changes. Studies on pollinator declines also show alarming trends, mostly in bees, but data on other pollinators is sorely needed. Research of these types and scales require far more data than any single scientist can amass.

While museum collections, personal collections, published literature, and paper field guides contain valuable data, these sources:

  • are scattered,
  • can be out of date,
  • contain varying levels of detail,
  • can require considerable effort to access, and
  • are often known only to a limited circle of lepidopterists.

When asking complex questions, scientists need to spend time conducting analysis, not amassing data or tracking down individual personal collections one by one to map species ranges or abundance.

The BAMONA project aims to serve as a one-stop database of butterfly and moth data that scientists can use to form or to address research questions. While it is a collaborative effort between individuals with varying levels of knowledge and experience with Lepidoptera, contributors share a common goal of assembling high quality data on butterfly and moth distribution.

About Data Quality

Data quality is an issue for all citizen science projects because the value of the database is only as good as its weakest record. Because many species can look very similar and because it can be quite difficult to make identifications, the BAMONA project requires a photograph with each citizen science submission. Records are only accepted if a coordinator can verify a species identification from the submitted photograph. Species that cannot be distinguished by their appearance require a specimen for further examination or dissection.

Kelly Lotts and Thomas Naberhaus develop the database and website, coordinate data compilation, develop policies, answer questions from users, and facilitate the work of the coordinators. Volunteer regional coordinators are responsible for data quality control and general scientific oversight. The authors are indebted to the work of Dr. Paul Opler, Harry Pavulaan, Ray Stanford, and scientists from the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, who were responsible for creating sites upon which this project is based. For many years, general scientific oversight was also provided by Paul A. Opler.

If you are citing the maps or data from this project, please use:

Lotts, Kelly and Thomas Naberhaus, coordinators. 2016. Butterflies and Moths of North America. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/ (Version MMDDYYYY).

If you are wish to cite life history information, you should not cite this project, as life history information was contributed by several published texts. See the Acknowedgments. You should consult one of those texts when seeking or citing life history information.

In 1995, a team of scientists at the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) conceived and developed two sites: Butterflies of the U.S. and Moths of the U.S. These separate sites were inspired by paper atlases created by Paul Opler, Harry Pavulaan, Ray Stanford, and their many cooperators. The mission, in part, of Northern Prairie's Grassland Ecosystem Initiative was to work with others to assess the biotic resources of the Great Plains, to facilitate information sharing among agencies, organizations, and individuals, and to synthesize that information. Development of the Butterflies and Moths of the United States Web sites was a logical avenue for furthering the goal of making information on the biotic resources of the Great Plains more widely available to decision-makers, resource managers, scientists, and the public. These resources achieved almost instant success and quickly became the most popular of the more then 400 biological resources on the Northern Prairie Web site. Shane C. Erstad, Douglas H. Johnson, and Terry L. Shaffer from Northern Prairie were instrumental in the inception and development of the resources. Approximately 50 students from Jamestown College coded the data, prepared the photographs, and formatted the species accounts. Thomas K. Buhl and the late David P. Fellows responded to the thousands of e-mail inquiries that the resource spawned.

The BAMONA project is based upon work previously supported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Program from 2004-2011. In 2004, Montana State University received funding from the NBII Program to manage and maintain the two Web sites that were originally developed by the NPWRC. From 2005-2006, staff members from MSU redeveloped and merged the sites to create an interactive, searchable, and updateable web-enabled database of butterfly and moth records. The first version of BAMONA was launched in 2006, and both usage and participation soared in the ensuing years. Standardized data collection and an improved turnaround time made it possible to release dynamic maps that changed immediately when new records were added to the database. In January 2011, a new version of BAMONA was launched featuring Canadian data, maps displaying point data and recent submissions, and a new online submission/review process. BAMONA also published a Web Mapping Service (WMS) of the county-level U.S. data for use in mapping applications. In the President's budget for Fiscal Year 2012, the NBII Program was slated for termination. The year-long continuing resolution for Fiscal Year 2011 enacted by Congress accelerated the reductions in the President's Fiscal Year 2012 budget by including a $3.8 million decrease for the NBII. As a result, USGS began the termination of the NBII in Fiscal Year 2011 and indicated that it would not provide any further funding to existing partnerships, including BAMONA.

Today the Butterflies and Moths of North America project rests under the purview of Kelly Lotts and Thomas Naberhaus at the Butterfly and Moth Information Network and receives scientific oversight from Dr. Paul A. Opler and more than fifty tireless volunteer regional coordinators.

Maps and checklists shown on this web site display data from a variety of sources that have varying amounts of metadata such as date, specific location, and data source. If you have any questions about a species checklist or a data point seen on a map, please contact us and the details can be provided. Details of recently verified sightings can be accessed via the recent sightings page.

Data originally collected from the NPWRC (see the History section) were saved with minimal supporting details and these records have been mapped as county centroids, not actual localities. Data collected since 2005 have included date, submitter, collection information, and location details. These records with addresses have been geocoded (when possible) to find their latitude/longitude, and other records are displayed at the latitude/longitude as submitted. The online submission process requires latitude/longitude values, so all records submitted through this process are displayed on the map using the submitted coordinates.

Users of this site need to understand that data are more complete for some species and counties/regions/states/provinces than others. Absence of a record for a particular species may mean that 1) the species does not occur there, 2) the species is present but has not been detected and reported yet, or 3) a record exists but has not yet been added to our database.

BAMONA is a labor-intensive project, and limited funding ended in 2011. As a result, the project survives only through a lot of hard work and dedication from unpaid staff and volunteers.

In order to make this a more valuable resource, we will continue to modernize the mapping technology, to offer identification tools, and to improve access to detailed data in the BAMONA database. Many users have expressed their wishes to us over the years, and we have been working behind the scenes on these new features as funding permits.

Without additional financial support, however, desired improvements will not happen in a timely fashion. Therefore, while we continue to seek funding from traditional sources, limited web advertising provides an additional revenue stream to support ongoing development of new features for our loyal users. If you know of a funding mechanism, or would like to help offset costs, please contact us.