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 the 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. 1969–1985), 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. It is simply impossible to state in many cases in which natural area a locality has to be cited. Distribution data from old collections do sometimes not make it possible to pinpoint the location of 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, b, c (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 of the project "Systematic List of Belgian Lepidoptera" and asking for their cooperation. Contributors were asked to fill out a form indicating which Lepidoptera families they were able to contribute to. A similar questionnaire was sent as a supplement to 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 was 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 others, 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 that are normally distributed far beyond the Belgian borders were not included in the list but commented on 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.
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 labelled 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, and tropical species which were encountered in harbours. These records are commented on in the "List of exotic species".
Furthermore, some species are not listed because their taxonomic status is still uncertain. For instance, *Diachrysia tutti* (Kostrowicki, 1961) is not listed because no clear-cut differences with *Diachrysia chrysitis* (Linnaeus, 1758) have been published for Belgium yet, although specimens with "tutti"-characters exist in some collections.
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. 2003–2023. *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 Block Beau – Text and pictures dealing with butterflies
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
Veraghtert Wim – Historical data research
Wullaert Steve – Texts dealing with selected leaf miner families
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