The Butterflies and Moths of North America Web sites were conceived and developed by a team of scientists at Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in 1995 and 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 North America 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. Today Butterflies and Moths of North America enjoy a new home under the auspices of the National Biological Information Infrastructure. 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 Butterflies of North America and Moths of North America Web sites are now operated by the Big Sky Institute at Montana State University and the NBII Mountain Prairie Information Node. Information previously found on these sites has been incorporated into the new Butterflies and Moths of North America Web site at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org.