Lepidoptera Task Force

The Lepidoptera Task Force is one of ten task forces associated with the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). NAPPC’s mission is to encourage the health of resident and migratory pollinating animals in North America, and brings together a growing, collaborative body of more than 170 diverse partners including respected scientists, researchers, conservationists, government officials and dedicated volunteers. This task force will determine priorities and potential funding sources for a Lepidoptera research grant program including but not limited to monarch, blue, and swallowtail butterflies. The task force will also explore replication of programs such as Project Swallowtail and Project Wingspan in the Western US.

Call for Proposals Related to Lepidoptera Conservation

Painted Lady Butterfly by Amber Barnes


Over the past 24 years, the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) has been an international force driving interest in the vital role and fragile status of native and managed pollinator species. NAPPC’s mission is to encourage the health of resident and migratory pollinating animals in North America. These pollinators are responsible for one-third of global food production. A yearly conference brings together experts from across the world to share knowledge, raise public awareness, promote constructive dialogue, and develop key partnerships to support research on pollinator species. Through the creation of specific task forces, NAPPC encourages experts and interested parties to come together and work on complex issues facing pollinators. One such task force is the Lepidoptera Task Force. Created in 2021, we focus on the promotion, education and protection of crucial moth and butterfly pollinators. Learn more at www.nappc.org.

There are estimated to be up to 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide, providing pollination and ecosystem services of a diverse variety. The number of moth species globally is increased by a factor of 10, to approximately 190,000 species. Although the beauty and complexity of these animals captures people’s imaginations and encourages actions to help protect them, the role of these species as pollinators is underestimated. Unlike the life cycles of bee species, which are complex in their own right, Lepidoptera species experience shifts in diet and function, and relationships change with specific plants and habitat elements at each life stage. We at NAPPC have established a goal to build more knowledge and understanding of the crucial role of Lepidoptera in our ecosystems.

The 2023-24 grant cycle is now closed.

Grant Program Details

NAPPC is seeking proposals for research related to Lepidoptera Conservation. The Lepidoptera Task Force has established a new grant program to support projects related to Lepidoptera conservation. Our intent is to support projects that have a meaningful impact that can be accomplished in a year. This includes conservation projects that need some additional support to get off the ground, or projects that are underway but need additional support for completion. In this second year of administering this grant program, we anticipate awarding two projects, each with a maximum budget of $10,000. The period of performance will be February 1, 2024 to January 31, 2025.

Priority Areas

The Lepidoptera Task Force has identified the following priority areas for funding, although well-written proposals on other topics will be considered as well. Projects may fall into multiple categories.

  1. Community Grant: Projects should focus on community engagement and education. Examples of projects include:
    1. Youth or school programs
    2. Neighborhood beautification or education
    3. Engagement with local stakeholders such as agricultural producers or municipalities
    4. Training programs
    5. Community Lepidoptera monitoring program
  2. Habitat Implementation Grant: Projects should include the installation of native nectar and host plants that support Lepidoptera.
  3. Research Continuation Grant: Given the 1-year performance period, most likely new research projects will not be able to generate findings; however, funding to complete existing research projects may be suitable. Examples of research topics related to conservation include:
    1. Lepidoptera reintroductions
    2. Captive rearing methods
    3. Plant pollinator preference
    4. Phenological studies
    5. Impacts of climate change
    6. Pesticide toxicity


Nonprofits, NGOs, educational institutions, and students are encouraged to apply. Government agencies and for-profit companies are not eligible. Focused, targeted projects with a high likelihood of providing tangible results that can be applied to improving Lepidoptera conservation are preferred. Proposals providing valuable additions to previously funded projects will be considered but results must be distinct. Proposals that focus on political efforts such as lobbying, litigation, and petitions are not eligible. Principal investigators of all funded projects will be expected to present their final report to the Lepidoptera Task Force and are encouraged to serve on the Task Force in the future.

Proposal Requirements

  1. Proposal title and project team with contact information including email(s), physical mailing address, and telephone number(s).
  2. Priority area focus/foci.
  3. Three page project description maximum, with sufficient background and description of methods (12-pt font, single spaced, with page numbers; references are not included in this page limit).
  4. Detailed budget. As a non-profit organization, the Pollinator Partnership/NAPPC does not pay overhead on funded grants.
  5. Project timeline by month (February 1, 2024 to January 31, 2025)
  6. Project team qualifications including a 2-page (maximum) resume of the primary applicant(s).
  7. Please explain if the proposal is under consideration by other funding organizations.

Assessment of Proposals

The proposals will be reviewed based on the following criteria: defined objectives, conservation impact, budget, feasibility, and merit.


Email your proposal packets as a single PDF file to Reed Lievers (reed@pollinator.org) by 3PM PST on Friday, October 27, 2023.

Email Reed with any questions.

Funding Decisions

The proposals will be evaluated, and funding notifications will be made by December 8, 2023.

Grantees are listed below by priority area.

Community Engagement and Education

2023- Partnering with community gardens to assess the role of heavy metal pollution in butterfly decline, Lauren Agnew, University of Minnesota, agne0050@umn.edu

This team will work with community garden partners to review results and develop directed strategies for reducing heavy metal exposure in the gardens to further support these valuable urban greenspaces and the butterflies that inhabit them. This research project has two objectives: 1. sample nectar as a potential means of heavy metal bioaccumulation in butterflies, and 2. collect additional butterfly species and relate species’ tolerance to heavy metals to their decline in abundance.

Habitat Implementation

2024 - Restoring Lepidoptera Resources in Wetland Habitats through Youth Programming, Dan Sandacz, April Vaos, Erika Stergos, and Garnet Miller at the Preservation Foundation in Liberty, IL

The Preservation Foundation will work with the Lake County Forest Preserves District to implement habitat restoration at Greenbelt Forest Preserve.

2023 - Butterfly Garden (Jardín des Papillons), Devon Lang Pryor, Académie Lafayette Public Charter School, lang.devon@gmail.com

This project will restore an existing perennial garden located at Académie Lafayette (AL) Public Charter School’s Oak Street campus in Kansas City, Missouri.

Research Continuation

2024 - Investigating Strategic mowing to enhance monarch butterfly oviposition and larval survival rates in CT, Kelsey Fisher, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

This project aims to determine if mowing common milkweed prior to the arrival of monarchs in Connecticut (CT) would encourage new vegetative growth, elongate the plants vegetative stage, and enhance monarch oviposition and larval survival rates.

2024 - Restoration of two populations of Baltimore Checkerspots and expansion of the Nature Museum’s Butterfly Restoration Program, Douglas Taron, Alan Lawrence at The Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

The project is part of the Nature Museum’s long-standing Butterfly Restoration Program, and will bring to completion one specific part of that program, the reintroduction of Baltimore Checkerspots at Bluff Spring Fen. Since 2001, this program has worked to release six species of butterflies on four habitat restoration sites in northeastern Illinois.

2023 - Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network (CBMN), Shiran Hershcovich, Butterfly Pavilion, shershcovich@butterflies.org

Funds were awarded to help continue the operations of the Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network a community science project led by Colorado Butterfly Pavilion that harnesses the power of volunteers to monitor lepidopteran populations in the state. CBMN has become one of the nation’s fastest growing volunteer butterfly monitoring programs, and collects and reports data on long-term monitoring of butterfly species distribution, composition and abundance in correlation with ecological and climatic conditions in the state of Colorado.

Lepidoptera ID Guide

Lights Out for Lepidoptera

Download Brochure

Repurposable Letter

White-lined Sphinx - Photographed by Rick Welton

Light pollution is a spillover effect from urbanization and poses several threats to nocturnal animals that have evolved to rely on the cover of darkness for nourishment, protection, and/or reproduction. Light pollution is a relatively recent phenomenon and animals have not had adequate time to adapt to this new reality, leading to disruptions in their life cycles that can have deadly consequences. For example, migratory birds that depend on navigational clues from the stars and the Moon have been recorded as being disoriented from the glow from artificial light, causing them to crash into buildings or fly in circles until they falter from exhaustion. The effects of artificial light are negatively affecting nocturnal reptiles, mammals, and insects in a similar fashion, leading to disruptions in food chains and ecosystem functionality. Luckily, there are actions we can take as individuals to decrease our own output of artificial light, and we inspire others, including city officials, building managers, and homeowners associations to do the same.

Kidney-spotted or Bristly Cutworm - Photographed by Jeanette Jaskula

Nocturnal Pollination - Pollination, the natural mechanism through which plants reproduce, occurs at all hours of the day. While much of the research has been focused on pollinators that are active during the day (diurnal), critical pollination services are provided by nocturnal animals such as bats, bees, beetles, and most importantly, moths. While moth pollination has been less studied than bee pollination, research completed in the last few decades indicates that moth pollination is incredibly important to functioning ecosystems across the globe and that moths might even be more efficient pollinators than bees. As is the case with other pollinators, moths coevolved along with certain flowering plants, and both maintain certain characteristics that attract one another. For example, plants have evolved to take advantage of the keen sense of smell moths possess and produce especially fragrant flowers that open at night. Also, white or pale blooming flowers are more likely to attract moths because they are easier to see at night. These characteristics help us identify which plant species attract moths, although some plants are pollinated both during the day and at night. Certain species of moths and plants have evolved to become codependent on one another, as is the case with the famous relationship between the yucca plant and the yucca moth, which is the yucca flower’s only pollinator. Moths are also recorded as traveling further distances than bees to find nutrients, leading researchers to believe that moths are an important player in maintaining genetic diversity across an ecosystem.

Carolina Sphinx - Photographed by Brian Lowry

How artificial light hurts pollinators - Like other pollinators, moths are negatively affected by habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, encroachment from invasive species, and climate change. However, moths are most at risk from the effects of light pollution, as most moth species are nocturnal and use the benefit of darkness to feed, mate, and avoid predation. Moths also use distant natural lights, such as the Moon and stars to navigate. Light pollution disorients and confuses moths, causing them to pollinate less efficiently and exhibit the phenomenon known as “flight to light” where moths will fly towards or circle the artificial light source and eventually land. These moths are then easy prey for predators, such as birds, that have learned that certain lights attract moths in large numbers. Additionally, contact with hot surfaces from artificial lighting can kill or injure moths. Light pollution can also inhibit the mating and reproductive process in nocturnal Lepidoptera and has been shown to have negative effects on moth larvae as well. These negative effects from light pollution have serious repercussions for ecosystem functionality and imperil certain moth species along with the plants they visit and pollinate. Without these specialist pollinators, ecosystems lose biodiversity and functionality and are less resilient to other threats like climate change and invasive species.

Hermit Sphinx - Photographed by Dean Smith

How you can help

Despite the threats that light pollution poses to moths and their role in maintaining our ecosystems, there are several ways we can advocate for moths in our individual capacities.

  • Firstly, assess outdoor lighting at your home or apartment and do your best to turn off any unnecessary lights. Shading your windows at night is also a good idea.
  • Moths are considered to be more attracted to higher-frequency lights (generally with more UV output), so if you must use outdoor lighting at night for safety purposes, try to install low-voltage lights (such as sodium-vapor bulbs) and motion detectors.
  • LED lighting, though more energy efficient, is ironically more disruptive to moths than other options. If you are going to install LED lights, try to choose bulbs that emit warmer wavelengths instead of “daylight” bulbs.
  • Plant for diurnal and nocturnal pollinators alike! As we know, moths tend to prefer fragrant flowers that are white or pale in coloration. Making sure to always lean towards plants that are native and non-invasive, try planting flowers like sacred Datura (Datura wrightii), morning glory (Convolvulus spp.), and common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) to attract moths and provide them food and nectar sources. Reference our eco-regional planting guides for more ideas for pollinator-friendly plants.
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides whenever possible and say no to bug zappers!