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BACKYARD 1 — BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA
at 9601 Oak Pass Rd. (1938—1957)
LOS ANGELES COUNTY, in the E. SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS
Historical Macro-Moth Study (1953-1957)
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BACKGROUND & INTRODUCTION
The primary objective of this presentation is simply to document the original moth fauna of a unique locality, as it was over half a century ago (during the 1940's and 1950's), before “developers” arrived on the scene and “improved” it into oblivion (a.k.a. that American sacred cow, “Progress”). This habitat, in the EASTERN SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS, was centered around the home at 9601 Oak Pass Rd., about 5 road-miles north of Sunset Blvd., BEVERLY HILLS, in Los Angeles County, California. The elevation of our ridge-top location was at 1,100 feet, in the hills east of Benedict Canyon, and we were situated about 8 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean coastline, within the coastal fog-belt.


Serious record-keeping for a moth survey there evolved during the last five years (1953-57) of my first two decades of life (1938-1957), while residing at 9601 Oak Pass Road. This period also gave rise to a major high school science project (“Back Porch Moth Collection”), which was entered into the Southern California Science Fair, under the supervision of my “Life Sciences” instructor, Mr. Richards K. Farnham, while I was finishing up my senior year (1957) at University High School in West Los Angeles. [Click here.]

During the mid 1950's, it gradually began to dawn upon me that I had accumulated some very interesting and potentially valuable data — along with many good “voucher” specimens to document these discoveries. Therefore (after considerable prodding by my mentors), I decided to write up a summary of this early Oak Pass Rd. study, which was finally published about a decade later, in 1965 [click here]. The 5 plates of B.& W. photos, at the end of that paper, are rather “primitive” by today's standards....They were made (in far too much of a hurry), on the kitchen table of Dr. William F. Hovanitz, at 1160 W. Orange Grove Ave., Arcadia, California (1964). We used a pale blue cloth for the backgrounds, and a couple of lamps for lighting. My primary regret is that we only photographed about 140 specimens from the complete collection (representing about 110, from the total of 280 ± “macro” species, that were actually collected at 9601 Oak Pass Road). The standard American cop-outs (“lack of time”/ “lack of space”) could be offered as lame “excuses” for that unfinished project.  (More honest: Lack of foresight and/or lack of motivation at the time!)....

About 135 color slides, using a black velvet background, were also made of these fresh specimens, from the same Oak Pass collection, by Dr. Leland R. Brown (then of U.C.L.A./1956-57). This photographic project was never completed either. These slides only represent about one-third of all the macro-moth spp. that were collected during the 5 years of the survey (and many of these are duplicates of the spp. already depicted as B.& W. photos, in the 1965 publication). However, since these color slides have never been published, I've decided to dust them off and bring them to this site — hopefully, better late than never....There is no point in continuing to store them in a closet [Click here, to access these ancient 35 mm. color slides made by Lee Brown.]
For an excellent result on black velvet, see the geometrid, Synaxis cervinaria, at left. Pale blue to pale gray (or “off-white”) backgrounds are the best for most applications. However, there is NO “one-color-fits-all” background (although some come close); variable and subtle adjustments are often needed to get consistently top-class results. It is interesting to note how well the colors have been retained, in most of these early slides, during their 5 decades in storage! The film used by Dr. Brown was Kodachrome.

The names then in use (including J. McDunnough's 1938 check-list numbers) were hand-written onto all of the name-labels visible in these slides. Where still correct (with ref. to the names in current check-lists) the old name-labels have been left untouched. Where now changed, or synonymized under other names, they have been crossed out, and the current (or corrected) names have been inserted as new legend material to accompany each photo, along with the equivalent MONA-number (and the “LFW” wing measurements, in mm.). DATES on the old (Beverly Hills) locality labels were always given as month first, day second (“4-5-55” would be April 5th, not May 4th). For use as a “convenient scale”, the Beverly Hills locality labels are all + 26 mm. across (horizontal length).

In Dec. of 2006, Kelly Richers (Bakersfield, CA) kindly offered to attempt to locate and photograph as many as possible of the moths not illustrated in my 1965 publication, all of which specimens had been donated to the Los Angeles County Museum in 1971 (see Donahue, 1972). In the time that was available, Mr. Richers was able to locate 14 of the missing geometrid spp., and 72 of the missing noctuid spp., that were listed but not illustrated in the 1965 publication....Also included are a few “re-takes”, in cases where certain interesting color variations (of highly variable spp.) have been omitted. All of Mr. Richer's recent photos (of these old spread specimens) may be recognized by the brown or purplish background color in every image. Due to the great age, wings have sagged in some specimens, and others are faded or damaged in various other ways.... But it is amazing to see how “fresh” and well-colored some of these OLD specimens appear, even after half a century. (See the Hesperumia specimen below; click the image for the record.) They had been stored in total darkness for most of that time. The K.R. photos were taken “with a Canon A80, using macro function and portrait format, with no flash”. This welcome contribution, of about 147 additional images, has boosted the total to about 200 species (out of the original 280) that are now represented at this site by some form of photographic documentation....These three very differing styles of photography (1955-57, 1965, 2006) each demonstrate their advantages and disadvantages, depending primarily upon the lighting and the background chosen, and how well the latter contrasts with the specimen and its appendages.


There is a need for label correction on some of the old (1954-1957) Beverly Hills locality labels, as attached to certain specimens in the L.A. County Museum, where “Benedict Ca.” appears on the 3rd line: These (18 mm. across) were not my original labels (all of which were about 26 mm. across). Someone removed the original labels from certain specimens, and replaced them with these “revised” shorter ones; the handwriting is not mine either!....(Examples: See the geometrids — MONA 6682, 6689, 6749, etc., etc.). The (incorrect) “Benedict Ca.” refers to Benedict Canyon, which was NOT where any of these specimens originated! They were all taken at the same address (9601 Oak Pass Rd.), on a ridge far above the floor of Benedict Canyon....
The black velvet did a good job for some of these moths, but it is by no means the best background in every instance.... All too often, dark antennae are nearly lost against the black, as are any dark wing margins or abdomens, etc. Worst example: Try to discern the black tips on the (male/female) abdomens of the tiger moth at left, Notarctia proxima — they are not snipped off!
Quite a few of the generic names in use 50 years ago have since been synonymized. And some of the moths have been shifted to other genera, where they more convincingly seem to belong (based on subsequent taxonomic/molecular studies by various specialists).  See the section headed “TAXONOMY”, for a discussion of this constantly evolving process [Click here].  The annoying phenomenon of “name-changing” is an inevitable outcome of growth and understandingin the field of taxonomy.  (Get used to it!)....However, there is sometimes a humorous consoling factor: If one waits long enough, it will be seen that the names of certain species will end up right back where they started decades earlier — all depending upon whether a “splitting” or a “lumping” approach to the various groups is currently in vogue! And, the approach selected will depend upon whether or not the acknowledged “taxonomist of the day” has a narrow regional focus OR is looking at the bigger picture (across the entire hemisphere).  The former tends to result in “splitting”, whereas the latter often leads to “lumping” (the combining or reduction of taxa). Unless one is a struggling (but politically savvy!) grad-student, it should be a matter of personal choice as to whose classification one decides to follow. Remember, no single specialist has all the answers — and, not a one of them was around when IT all began! Each new phylogenetic diagram or “tree” is just another opinion, nothing more.  The primary differences (in the many systems proposed) derive from the taxonomist's personal background, training, inclinations, and specific interests. Some are sure to be standing on more solid foundations than are others.  However, taxonomy is as much an art as it is a science....
Regardless of all the name-shifting that WILL transpire, if one has carefully code-numbered the entities being studied (or has developed various other ways of maintaining linkages between the collected specimens and the written notes or associated photos), past observations can be brought into the public domain many decades later, and will still convey every bit of their original value. That is what I am attempting to do here, with this “time-capsule” from a long-vanished and far less crowded, slower-paced Southern California, that future generations will never be privileged to experience...

This sad and degraded outcome has evolved through the unrelenting American fixation with so-called “development”, which in turn is driven by ever-increasing population pressures, and an obscene hunger for “profits” (at any cost) — none of which is likely to abate or change course anytime soon....As a result, quality of life (for everyone) will most likely just continue to deteriorate, becoming ever more crowded and hectic. (Are we having fun, yet??) [Click here for a concise interpretation of the above]. A quotation from Chief Standing Bear, formerly of the Lakota Band of Sioux Indians, should not go amiss here:

“The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man's heart away from Nature becomes hard. He knew that lack of respect for living, growing things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his youth close to its softening influence.”

— from Touch the Earth, by T.C. McLuhan (1973)
Sphere Books (Abacus), London


SO, WHERE ARE WE RAPIDLY HEADING TODAY ???.... (as far removed as we can possibly get from the natural world) ... Of course, TECHNOLOGY and 'multi-tasking' will solve everything!!!
1A — Growing Up Wild in the ELFIN FOREST north of Beverly Hills (1938-1957)

Dedications

Growing Up Wild in Beverly Hills!

EARLY DAYS on OAK PASS Rd. (1937-1945) and HOW the ROAD GOT ITS NAME

FIRES

- (A) Botanical Highlights

-- Historical Remarks on Oaks

-- EARLY EVOLUTIONARY STAGES of the "SMOG-DENIAL SYNDROME"!

-- OAK PASS NATIVE PLANTS TODAY (??)

-- Echos From the Past!

-- A Bit of SUMMERTIME FOGBANK-BOTANY

- (B) LOCAL BUTTERFLY HIGHLIGHTS

- (C) LOCAL BIRDS REMEMBERED

- (D) LOCAL MAMMALS REMEMBERED

- (E) REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS REMEMBERED

CONTACT INFORMATION

DESSERT (Purely for Amusement!)

THE HONEY-SNOB'S CORNER


1B — BACKPORCH MOTH COLLECTION at 9601 Oak Pass Road (1953-1957)

A five-year study (1953-1957) documenting the occurrence of 283 macro-moth species on one acre of woodland habitat at 9601 Oak Pass Rd., 5 road-miles north of Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills (a mixture of undisturbed Southern Oak Woodland / Chaparral / Coastal Sage Scrub habitat, at 1100 ft. elevation).

WHAT TO EXPECT AT THIS CALIFORNIA SITE

ABOUT THE BACKYARD CONCEPT

BACKGROUND & INTRODUCTION

About the Moth Studies at 9601 Oak Pass Road

BEATING or SWEEPING for LARVAE - A MOST PRODUCTIVE COLLECTING TECHNIQUE

ABUNDANCE-RATINGS DEFINED

The OLD BEVERLY HILLS (OAK PASS ROAD) MOTH STUDY COMPARED WITH THREE OTHER (MORE RECENT) SURVEYS IN COASTAL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

OBSERVED DIFFERENCES IN THE MACRO-MOTH FAUNAS OF THE ABOVE THREE OTHER SURVEYED COASTAL CALIFORNIAN LOCALITIES

HISTORICAL PHOTOS and A PLEA for FUTURE STUDIES in the SAME REGION

FRANK SALA'S CORNER

FRANK HOVORE'S CORNER


1C — HABITAT PHOTOS Documenting the Surrounding Locality (1957-1964)

1C - HABITAT PHOTOS (1957-1964)

DIRT ROADS

Copyright ©2005-2011 Noel McFarland. All Rights Reserved.