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of the Lepidoptera of Belgium

Introduction - History - Method - Tables - Acknowledgements

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 1998) by the relative 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 1983). 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 on-line version such information is included.
We have retained the administrative division of Belgium into 9 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 (see Hackray & Sarlet 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. 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 de Sélys-Longchamps. Other lists and catalogues were mainly published in the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century and contain mainly only Macrolepidoptera:

At the end of the 19th Century a rare and rather unknown work on the Belgian Lepidoptera was published by A. and Ch.-F. Dubois (1874-1884) in three volumes, 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 which 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 faunistical 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 on the occurrence or when no recent data are available from a larger area. Such literature records are indicated in the list with the sign "L". 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.

Some general information on every Lepidoptera family is furnished, mainly taken from Scoble (1992). We have also added a (non-exhaustive) list of publications with which the identification of the species is made possible.
The systematic list itself is mainly based on the 1983 list (De Prins 1983), but updated according to the current systematics and nomenclature. For each family, we have indicated which publication is followed but in general the nomenclature of Fauna Europaea is followed.

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 (synantropic 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, tropical species which were encountered in harbours. These records are commented 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.

The tables
This online version of the "Catalogue of the Lepidoptera of Belgium" does not contain all columns from the printed version. The columns "Code" and "References" have been omitted.

"Systematic list": this column contains the systematic list of Belgian Lepidoptera. I have tried to make as little changes as possible to my earlier list (De Prins 1983). However, due to new studies it would have been unscientific to maintain the existent nomenclature. Furthermore, I have tried to compile the list in accordance with the lists in our neighbouring countries to enable comparison. However, some important changes have been included, especially after the publication of "Lepidoptera of Europe" (Karsholt & Razowski 1996). The nomenclature has furthermore been updated according to the list in Fauna Europaea.

There is a separate table for each family. The list contains only the taxonomic levels family, subfamily, genus and species. Names in other taxonomic categories as tribes, subgenera and subspecies have not been listed. Synonyms of the genus group names are not given in this edition of the online checklist. As in the printed version synonyms of the species group are mentioned when they have been in the Belgian entomological literature.

"WV, OV, AN, LI, BR, HA, LG, LX": these abbreviations indicate the nine Belgian provinces as before the splitting of Brabant and arranged from northwest to southeast: West-Vlaanderen, Oost-Vlaanderen, Antwerpen, Limburg, Brabant, Hainaut, Namur, Liège and Luxembourg.

The occurrence of the species is indicated according to three periods:

= before 1980
= 1980 – 2004
= after 2004

An "L" indicates a literature record from the province, of which no specimen could be retrieved.

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 include: De Prins 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005, and subsequent lists in the series "Interessante waarnemingen van Lepidoptera", published in Phegea.

Comments to Willy De Prins or Chris Steeman
© Flemish Entomological Society