The Barbadian C. C. Gowdey, who was Jamaican government entomologist in the mid-1920's appears to have been the first person to have attempted a serious inventory of Jamaica's insect fauna. His collection, made between 1921 and 1926, is still extant in good condition at the Institute of Jamaica (where it is on permanent loan from the Ministry of Agriculture). I catalogued it in 1989 and found over 750 specimens of some 285 species of larger moth. Gowdey's catalogue of Jamaican insects (Gowdey, 1926) names 339 species of moth, based on identifications made by the then Imperial Bureau of Entomology. According to the late Dr. Tom Farr of the Institute of Jamaica, Gowdey scratched his leg while out collecting, contracted septicaemia and died in the late '20's - thus putting an end to a very worthwhile project. The Institute of Jamaica itself also has a fairly large collection of moths, made by Dr. Farr and his predecessors, which I was able to curate into a single holding during my brief stay in Jamaica in the 1980's.
Between 1924 and 1948, Dr. André Avinoff (then curator of entomology at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh) and his nephew Nicholas Shoumatoff spent several seasons collecting moths and butterflies in Jamaica. Their collection of 14,000 specimens (including some 1,000 species of moth, many new to science) is still at the Carnegie, together with several other major Caribbean collections. All Avinoff and Shoumatoff's specimens were photographed using Kodachrome slides, along with relevant Jamaican Type specimens at the U.S. National Museum, the British Museum (Natural History) and the Berlin Museum. Sadly, an anticipated major work on the moths of Jamaica was never completed, due, again, to Dr. Avinoff's untimely death in 1949. When I last communicated with Dr. Shoumatoff in New York State , in July 1988, he still had in his possession enlarged prints of these slides, which he hoped to make available to me via Dr. John Rawlins, the current curator of entomology at the Carnegie Museum - however, this did not materialise.
Between 1988 and 1989 I was myself able to collect moths in Jamaica while working for my Master's thesis on coffee pests. Regrettably, due to my limited finances at the time I could only collect from one locality in the Southern Blue Mountains - 'Stoneleigh' plantation, near Mavis Bank, whose owner, Rick Johnston, was very interested in finding out more about the local butterflies and moths. My collection of several thousand specimens (of about 500 species) was mostly donated to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, although I kept small synoptic series of each apparent species for my own collection.
I have not returned to Jamaica since 1989; however, between then and now I have been able to spend part of six winters, and the occasional summer, collecting moths in most of the Eastern Caribbean between Grenada and Anguilla, as well as various parts of South and Central America. My collection of Neotropical moths has now grown to some 20,000 specimens, most of them mounted and many of them identified, and has enabled me to put my Jamaican moth specimens into their biogeographical context. I have been considerably aided in the latter by Dr. Tom Turner of Caribbean Wildlife Surveys Inc., now resident in Florida but previously a long-term resident of Jamaica, whose extensive knowledge of the Jamaican butterfly and moth fauna has been invaluable to me.
While in recent communication with Dr John Rawlins at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh I was informed that Dr. Eric Garraway of the Life Sciences Department of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has recently been supervising a number of undergraduate and postgraduate students in a study of the Jamaican moth fauna, family by family. I am informed by Dr. Rawlins that much good work has been done, but nothing appears to have been published to date. I hope that this website will encourage this and other work on Jamaican moths to be brought to a successful conclusion .