History of site/catalogue

The order Lepidoptera is one of the largest orders in the class of insects. It contains a.o. the very popular butterflies on which a huge amount of information has been published. However, the butterflies group only 4.5% of the total number of Lepidoptera species in Belgium. They are important as bio-indicators and can easily be observed as they are active by daytime. By far the largest number of Belgian Lepidoptera are active during the night, which makes their observation more difficult. Nevertheless, a lot of information on them was gathered by several entomologists and these data are included in the present catalogue. Moths are according to current use divided into Microlepidoptera and Macrolepidoptera but this separation has no systematic value whatsoever and was inspired by practical reasons only, starting somewhere at the beginning of the 18th century. Until quite recently, most Belgian lepidopterists exclusively studied the Macrolepidoptera and this is reflected in the printed catalogue (De Prins W. 1998) by the relatively limited amount of information received on the Microlepidoptera. Until now, a catalogue containing all groups of Lepidoptera in Belgium has never been published, except the "Systematic List of Belgian Lepidoptera" (De Prins W. 1983a). This is only a list of names, including the more important synonyms, but without any information on the general occurrence in Belgium. In the printed catalogue of 1998 and its online version, such information is included. We have updated the administrative division of Belgium into 10 provinces. Of course, this is a political division and Lepidoptera do not care about such boundaries at all. An alternative would have been an arrangement according to the natural areas in Belgium (e.g. Hackray J. & Sarlet L. G. 1969–1974), but this would cause a whole series of additional problems. The boundaries of these areas are vague and most of the natural areas are separated by a large transition zone. In many cases, it is simply impossible to state in which natural area a locality has to be cited. Distribution data from old collections do sometimes not allow to locate the exact locality.

History of Belgian Lepidoptera Lists
The first list of Belgian Lepidoptera was published in 1837 by E. de Sélys-Longchamps (De Sélys-Longchamps E. 1837). Other lists and catalogues were mainly published in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century and contain mainly only Macrolepidoptera:

De Sélys-Longchamps E. 1844 (view)
De Sélys-Longchamps E. 1857a (view)
De Sélys-Longchamps E. 1857b (addenda) (view)
De Fré Ch. 1858 (view)
Breyer A. 1859 (view)
Fologne E. 1859a (view)
Fologne E. 1862a Fologne E. 1862b Fologne E. 1862c (addenda) (view)
Fologne E. 1863 (addenda) (view)
Donckier de Donceel Ch. 1882 (view)
Lambillion L.-J. 1900–1913
De Crombrugghe G. 1906a
Hackray J. & Sarlet L. G. 1969–1985
De Prins W. 1983a
De Prins W. 1998
De Prins W. 2016 (view)

At the end of the 19th century, a rare and rather unknown work on the Belgian Lepidoptera was published by Dubois Ch.-F. & Dubois A. 1874 (1874–1884) in three volumes (view), in which some new species were mentioned for the Belgian fauna.

Together with the September issue of Phegea (1994), a questionnaire was sent informing members on the project "Systematic list of Belgian Lepidoptera" and asking for their co-operation. Contributors were asked to fill out a form indicating on which Lepidoptera families they were able to contribute. A similar questionnaire was sent with other Belgian entomological journals as well. Data gathered from these lists were put into tables that were prepared before. Doubtful data were checked, eventual misidentifications were corrected and if it was not possible to attain a compromise with the author the data is omitted in the present list.
Furthermore, the faunistic data from the collections of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and of the Flemish Entomological Society were noted during the past 20 years. Of course, the catalogue also contains the data from our own reference collection and notebooks.
Virtually the complete Belgian entomological literature was searched for records of new Lepidoptera species. For the original 1998 printed catalogue, the old literature was not used to establish the species' distribution, except in a few cases where it might give a better idea of the occurrence or when no recent data are available from a larger area. In this online version, further research in historical literature and historical collections added more historical information. Members of the V.V.E. searched the complete series of Bulletin & Annales de la Société entomologique de Belgique, Bulletin du Cercle des Lépidoptéristes de Belgique, Lambillionea, Linneana Belgica, Phegea, and Revue de la Société entomologique namuroise.
Especially in the old literature (19th and early 20th Century) several problems arose due to the use of obscure synonyms of both species and genus-group names, often combined with wrong authors. In a few cases, such difficulties could be resolved if the specimens still existed in museum collections, but in other cases, external instances such as foreign name lists and catalogues had to be consulted in order to establish the true identity of a species.

Certain species have been mentioned for the Belgian fauna at a given time, although they do not occur in Belgium. In some cases these records are based on misidentifications, in other, the species has been accidentally introduced into the country. In many cases, especially for the old records, it is very difficult to establish if the species really belongs to the Belgian fauna or whether it was just wrongly identified. Single records of species which are normally distributed far beyond the Belgian borders were not included in the list but commented at the end of each family. To establish whether a species should be listed or not, some criteria have been used which were formulated during the preparation of the Danish list (Larsen 1995b). A species should meet at least one of these to be taken into account. As a general rule, the species must live under natural conditions in Belgium.
The five criteria are as follows:

1. the species lives in Belgian habitats.
2. the species permanently lives in habitats created by human activities (synanthropic species).
3. the species regularly migrates into Belgium.
4. the species has been observed as a single specimen, but it reached Belgium actively, eventually with the help of air currents.
5. the species is represented in a collection by at least one clearly labeled adult specimen.

Species that are present in Belgium only by accident are not listed. These include a.o. species that have been imported by car from a holiday trip, species that are imported as a caterpillar on the foodplant and did not establish a (small) population, tropical species which were encountered in harbours. These records are commented on in the "Notes". Furthermore, some species are not listed because their taxonomic status is still uncertain. For instance, Diachrysia tutti (Kostrowicki, 1961) is not listed because no clearcut differences with Diachrysia chrysitis (Linnaeus, 1758) have been published for Belgium yet, although specimens with "tutti"-characters exist in some collections.

List of exotic species observed in Belgium (not exhaustive):

Acharia stimulea (Clemens, 1860) [Limacodidae], 1 full-grown caterpillar at Sint-Lievens-Houtem, OV, 2018-11-07, leg. B. Stas.

Anomalotinea liguriella (Millière, 1879) [Tineidae], 1 ex. at Lede, OV, 2017-06-10, leg. C. Piccini (det. T. Muus). Probably an adventive specimen.

Cameraria gaultheriella (Walsingham, 1889) [Gracillariidae], 5 mines at Beringen, LI, 2018-03-15, leg. S. Wullaert. More mines have been found subsequently, till 2018 the mines were recorded in AN, LI and OV. It is uncertain whether the species might survive in Belgium under natural conditions.

Cryptoblabes gnidiella (Millière, 1867) [Pyralidae], some caterpillars in the calyx of Punica granatum, the fruits of which were imported from Spain and found in a supermarket at Wieze, OV, 2018-10-01, leg. R. Meert. This Mediterranean species has already been reported from several central and north European countries as an accidental import.

Hypsopygia nostralis (Guenée, 1854) [Pyralidae], 1 adult at Edegem, AN, 2017-07-22, leg. L. Janssen, det. T. Muus. A North American species, as far as known this is the first and thus far only record in Europe.

Leucinodes orbonalis Guenée, 1854 [Crambidae], 1 specimen at Brussels, 2004-08-05, leg. R. Nyst, originally misidentified as Sceliodes laisalis (Walker, 1859). A tropical species originating from the Oriental and Afrotropical regions, probably introduced as a caterpillar or pupa with eggplants (Solanum melongena).

Maruca vitrata (Fabricius, 1787) [Crambidae], 1♀ at Antwerpen-city (AN), 1990-09-19, leg. Karel Janssens. A pantropical pest species on leguminous crops, probably imported with ships in the harbour.

Nepytia phantasmaria (Strecker, 1899) [Geometridae], 1 specimen at Edegem (AN), 2012-09-12, leg. M. Hofmann. A western North American species (Canada and U.S.A.).

Paysandisia archon Burmeister, 1880 [Castniidae], This species came to Europe in the 1990s with various loads of different palms from Argentina and quickly established itself here. The caterpillar lives exclusively in palm trees. Observations onwards from 2011 in different provinces.

Phyllocnistis citrella (Stainton, 1856) [Gracillariidae], 1 mine in citrus leaf at Berchem, AN, 2007-02-06, leg. C. Snyers. Since then many more mines have been observed, especially in Flanders.

Prays citri (Millière, 1873) [Praydidae], 1 adult at Edegem, AN, 2013-06-09, leg. L. Janssen. Afterwards also seen in other provinces such as OV and LI. Its native range is wide, spanning North and South Africa, the Middle East, India, Japan, Southeast Asia and large parts of Australia. These are most likely escaped animals from greenhouses and occurrences in Belgium are due to imported Citrus plants and fruit.

Schinia cognata (Freyer, 1833) (as Schinia cardui Hübner, 1790) [Noctuidae], 1 specimen at Stoumont, 1909-05-25, leg. Gérard-Filot. An East European species, probably adventive.

Sufetula diminutalis (Walker, 1866) [Crambidae], 1 specimen at Tollembeek (VB), 2020-08-11, leg. B. Uitterhaegen. A southeastern North American species known from Florida and the West Indies and more than likely imported with a recently purchased houseplant, the palm Dypsis lutescens.

The tables
"Seq.": this column contains the sequential number of the species enabling to display the species in a systematic order.
"Name": this column contains the scientific names of the species, sometimes accompanied by their synonyms.
"Vernacular names": this column mentions the vernacular names of the species in four languages.
"Column 4": contains a camera picture to indicate whether a photo is available or not. "Distibution": this column contains information about the presence of the species according to the 10 provinces and three time time periods. "WV, OV, AN, LI, VB, BW, HA, NA, LG, LX": these abbreviations indicate the ten Belgian provinces as after the splitting of Brabant and arranged from northwest to southeast: West-Vlaanderen, Oost-Vlaanderen, Antwerpen, Limburg, Vlaams-Brabant, Brabant-Wallon, Hainaut, Namur, Liège and Luxembourg.
Brabant (BR), Vlaams Brabant (VB), Brabant Wallon (BW) and others are regarded as zoogeographical zones. Administrative borders change over time and there is no exact matching. Most species observed in "Brussels" without further indication are thus included in VB and BR. Records mentioning "Forêt de Soignes" without any further indication are allocated to "BR" because it can be in both VB and BW.
The occurrence of the species is, at this moment, indicated according to three periods:

= before 1980
= 1980–2004
= after 2004

The online version is kept up-to-date after additional information has been published using "traditional" publication methods, i.e. printed papers in journals. These almost yearly publications started by De Prins in 1999 as the series "Interessante waarnemingen van Lepidoptera", published in Phegea.


The Vlaamse Vereniging voor Entomologie provides the http://projects.biodiversity.be/lepidoptera website as a service to the public and website owners.

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How to cite

Cite this website as:
De Prins W. & Steeman C. 2003–2020. Catalogue of the Lepidoptera of Belgium.
Online at https://projects.biodiversity.be/lepidoptera


Some members of the Vlaamse Vereniging voor Entomologie have contributed in various ways to this catalogue:
De Prins Guido – Texts dealing with Coleophoridae
De Prins Jurate – Pictures of microlepidoptera from museum specimens
Garrevoet Theo – Texts and pictures of Sesiidae; help with the structure of the website
Meert Ruben – Texts and pictures dealing with selected species
Sierens Tom – Historial data research
Vantieghem Pieter – Text and pictures dealing with butterflies
Verboven André – Texts dealing with Tortricidae
Wullaert Steve – Texts dealing with selected leaf miner families

Source code revision: f1aed19 (2020-03-02 16:38:10 +0100).